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Ok so my German comes from Pennsylvania, USA and filtered through a Swiss mother who tried to teach us Berlinerisch or High German in a state that spoke Pennsylvania Dutch (to me more of a mix of shortened Deutsche Sprache and English than Dutch) in a country that doesn’t help me keep up.

This will sound dumb, but what’s with the difference in the words for “time”. I used “Zeit” when asking for the time and got a look — not a good look. I corrected this with “spät” and got the time.

Given I’m washed out with English and Spanish (which is more useful in California), I also know there’s at least a 3rd word for time. What’s the difference between these words in everyday language?

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  • 5
    For translation questions we welcome complete sentences for recognizing the intended context. Having to guess means more work and less probability for a satisfying answer.
    – guidot
    Aug 2, 2023 at 19:34
  • Pennsylvania Dutch is similar enough to certain German dialects that it's mostly understandable to some German speakers, but it's different enough from Standard German that it should really be called a different language.
    – RDBury
    Aug 3, 2023 at 1:20

2 Answers 2

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  • Hast du Zeit? — Do you have time?
  • Wie spät ist es? — What's the time?
  • Wieviel Uhr ist es? — What o'clock is it?
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  • Thank you. Maybe it was my pronunciation although that’s pretty hard to mess up. So it seems “Zeit” and “spät” are pretty much synonymous. Aug 4, 2023 at 8:03
  • @JasonTownsend They are actually not synonymous. It is just that Wie spät ist es? ("How late is it?") is an idiomatic way for asking for the time in German, which is not idiomatic in English.
    – Jonathan Herrera
    Aug 4, 2023 at 8:35
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The third word you mean could maybe be "Uhrzeit", but we don't normally use it in the same way that "time" is used in English. Instead you would say something like:

  • Kannst du mir die Uhrzeit sagen? -- What time is it?

Another German idiom for "What time is it?" is "Wieviel Uhr ist es?", which was the basis for a famous line in the movie Casablanca.

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