Learn Russian from the beginning!
Lesson Seven

Understanding and asking about time

You will learn

  • to ask what the time is
  • to understand the answer!
  • to ask when shops, etc. open and close
  • to talk about what you do on days of the week and at different times of the year
    and a little about what Russians do on their days off

An information bureau

Study guide

Dialogues 1-4: listen without the book
Dialogues 1-4: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Dialogues 5, 6: listen without the book
Dialogues 5, 6: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Dialogues 7, 8: listen without the book
Dialogues 7, 8: listen, read and study one by one
Practice what you have learned
Study the Key words and phrases
Study the Grammar section carefully
Do the exercises in Read and understand
Read Did you know?
Do the exercises in Your turn to speak
Listen to all the dialogues once again straight through


1. What is the time?

- Который час?
- Восемь часов.

который час? what is the time?

восемь часов eight o'clock. Часов is used with numbers from five onwards. From two to four the ending is different: два, три, четыре часа, while one o'clock is simply час.

2. Tanya is asking the time.

Tanya Вы не знаете, который час?
Boris Mikhailovich Без двадцати девять.
Tanya Простите?
Boris Mikhailovich Восемь сорок.
Tanya Спасибо.

вы не знаете,... you don't happen to know...? Just about any question in Russian is felt to be more polite when made negative.
If you actually don't know, you will answer: я не знаю.

без двадцати девять twenty to nine. Literally this is 'without twenty, nine' (more details in the grammar section).

простите? sorry? Tanya hasn't understood either! Instead of простите? she could also ask повторите, пожалуйста please repeat that.

восемь сорок eight forty. In this simpler 'digital' form of the time, the words for hours and minutes are often omitted. In railway stations, airports etc. '24-hour digital' time is commonly used. You may hear people using '12-hour digital' time. However, in their day-to-day life, Russians still tend to use the first type of answer.

3. Now Tamara wants to know the time.

Tamara Сколько сейчас времени?
Misha Пять минут четвёртого.

Сколько сейчас времени? what is the time? This is another common way of asking the same question.

пять минут четвёртого five minutes of the fourth ('hour' understood), i.e. five past three. You will find a list of these ordinal numbers in grammar section.

4. Tanya and Tamara have finished breakfast.

Tanya А ты не знаешь, сколько сейчас времени?
Tamara Половина девятого.
Tanya Ой, я уже опаздываю.

ой here an expression of consternation
уже already

ты не знаешь...? the same question as in the first dialogue, but Tanya is talking here to a close friend.

половина девятого half-past eight

я уже опаздываю I’m already late

Practice what you have learned

Before you begin these exercises, read the grammar section.

On your recording you will hear people asking the time. Listen very carefully then see if you can put the following times in their correct order.

I. 9:45
II. 4:15
III. 2:00
IV. 4:45
V. 6:00
VI. 1:30

2. Your turn to ask the time. Andrei will guide you.

A cafe's opening hours
(In this strange picture the cafe works from Monday (ПН) till... Tuesday (ВТ)...)


5. Misha asks about the shop's hours.

Misha Скажите, пожалуйста, когда открывается ваш магазин?
Salesperson Наш магазин открывается в восемь часов утра.
Misha Спасибо. А когда у вас перерыв?
Salesperson Перерыв с часу до двух.
Misha Спасибо.

магазин shop, store
наш (fem. наша) our

когда открывается ваш магазин? when does your shop open? If you wanted to find out when the shop shuts, you would ask:
когда закрывается ваш магазин?

в восемь часов утра at eight o'clock in the morning. When saying 'at' a particular time, в is used before the number (this is often scarcely audible). 'At eight o'clock in the evening' would be в восемь часов вечера. And 'at three o'clock in the afternoon' - в три часа дня.

когда у вас перерыв? when is your break (for lunch)?

перерыв с часу до двух break is from one to two. Numbers often have different endings after prepositions such as с 'from' and до 'to'. 'From 2 to 3' is с двух до трёх, 'from 4 to 5' с четырёх до пяти, 'from 6 to 7' с шести до семи. From then to 12 the numbers end in .

Again you may not need to use these numbers, but you will want to recognize them. Listen carefully as Andrei reads them, since they can sound quite different from the numbers you are used to.

6. Tanya wants to know why her train hasn't arrived.

Tanya Почему нет поезда из Ярославля? Уже три часа.
Clerk Поезд, наверно, опаздывает и нужно слушать объявления диктора.

поезд train
наверно (or наверное) probably
опаздывать to be running late

почему нет поезда из Ярославля? why isn't the train from Yaroslavl' here? The word for 'train' is поезд (it has become поезда because it is used after нет).

почему...? why...? A reason as such is not given in this case - Tanya knows that the train is late! However, the response to почему? will often be потому что... because...

уже три часа it is already three o'clock

нужно слушать объявления диктора you need to listen to the announcements

Practice what you have learned

3. The signs below have fallen off their appropriate shops. Read the opening hours below then listen to your recording, and put the signs back in place.

a) 9-18 b) 11-20 c) 8-19
перерыв 2-3 перерыв 1-2 перерыв 1-2

4. The customers in the following dialogues all express indignation over shop timekeeping - unfairly, as it turns out. By listening to the recording, you should be able to say how long each customer will have to wait.

I. 1st man
II. woman
III. 2nd man

This shop is closed for repairs and gives address and phone number for details.


7. Misha describes a week during the semester.

Misha В понедельник я хожу в институт. Во вторник у меня свободный день, и я иногда хожу в библиотеку, а иногда ничего не делаю. В среду, в четверг и в пятницу я опять хожу в институт. В субботу я занимаюсь спортом. А в воскресенье я встречаюсь с друзьями.
иногда sometimes
библиотека library
опять again
заниматься спортом to take part in sport
встречаться с друзьями to meet with friends

в понедельник, во вторник, в среду, в четверг, в пятницу, в субботу, в воскресенье on Monday, Tuesday, ...

я хожу в институт I go to the institute. The verb ходить (я хожу, вы ходите...) is used when you say that you go somewhere frequently. It is normally followed by в or на and a noun in the accusative case.
Thus Misha says я хожу в институт but я хожу в библиотеку.

свободный день a free day. Misha means a day 'free' from lectures. A non-working day (for both people and stores, etc.) is выходной день.

я ничего не делаю I don't do anything. Ничего means 'nothing'. If it is used with a verb, you need не before the latter. Other such phrases:
я ничего не знаю I don't know anything
я ничего не хочу I don't want anything
я ничего не понимаю I don't understand anything

8. What about vacation?

Misha Зимние каникулы начинаются в январе. Летние каникулы начинаются в июле и кончаются в августе. Летом я люблю ходить в походы, а зимой я люблю кататься на лыжах.
в январе in January
(see full list of months in Key words section)
в июле in July
в августе in August
ходить в походы to go hiking
кататься на лыжах to ski

зимние каникулы winter vacation
летние каникулы summer vacation
The word каникулы (vacation) usually refers to school and university vacations. Leave for working people is отпуск.

зимние каникулы начинаются в январе winter vacation begins in January

кончаться to end. The verb endings начинаются and кончаются are the third person plural, used because the noun каникулы is always plural.

летом in summer
зимой in winter
The two remaining seasons:
весной in spring
осенью in autumn (the fall)

я люблю... I like... When you are saying 'to like to do something', this verb is followed by an infinitive verb.

Practice what you have learned

5. Vera Stepanovna's family always has enormous problems arranging a vacation together. If you listen to the snatches of conversation on your recording and then fill in the missing details below, you will know why.

I. Вера Степановна: отпуск begins , ends
II. Максим Петрович: отпуск begins , ends
III. Лариса: отпуск begins , ends

6. In this exercise, you are a student talking about a normal week during the semester.

Ничего не понимаю / I don't understand anything
A newspaper cartoon. The banner says "I don't understand anything"!

Key words and phrases

который час? / сколько сейчас времени?
(see Grammar for all the times)
what is the time?
вы не знаете,...?
я (не) знаю
повторите, пожалуйста
you don’t happen to know...?
I (don't) know
I beg your pardon?
please repeat that
открывается магазин?
закрывается киоск?
у вас перерыв?
does the shop open?
does the kiosk close?
is your lunchbreak?
в восемь часов утра
в два часа дня
в шесть часов вечера
с часу до двух
с двух до трёх
с четырёх до пяти
потому что...
я опаздываю
поезд опаздывает
at 8 a.m.
at 2 p.m.
at 6 p.m.
from 1 to 2
from 2 to 3
from 4 to 5
I'm running late
the train is late
в понедельник
во вторник
в среду
в четверг
в пятницу
в субботу
в воскресенье
on Monday
on Tuesday
on Wednesday
on Thursday
on Friday
on Saturday
on Sunday
я хожу в институт
в библиотеку
I go to the institute
to the library
свободный день
выходной день
a free day
a day off; day when shop etc. is closed
в январе
в феврале
в марте
в апреле
в мае
в июне
в июле
в августе
в сентябре
в октябре
в ноябре
в декабре
in January
in February
in March
in April
in May
in June
in July
in August
in September
in October
in November
in December
in winter
in spring
in summer
in the fall


Который час? / Сколько сейчас времени? What is the time?

On the hour:

два часа
три часа
четыре часа
пять часов
шесть часов
one o'clock
two o'clock
three o'clock
four o'clock
five o'clock
six o’clock
семь часов
восемь часов
девять часов
десять часов
одиннадцать часов
двенадцать часов
seven o'clock
eight o'clock
nine o'clock
ten o'clock
eleven o'clock
twelve o'clock

Когда...? when...?

To say 'at' a particular time, you simply put в in front of the number, e.g.:

в два часа at two o'clock

NB Here too endings change after numbers. After two, three and four, the ending is -a (genitive singular). From five onwards the ending becomes -ов (genitive plural). One o'clock is simply the word for 'hour' - час, and it doesn't need an ending. Other masculine nouns have the same endings, take билет ticket and доллар dollar, for example:

один билет, один доллар
два (три, четыре) билета, доллара
пять (шесть, ...) билетов, долларов

One to thirty minutes past the hour:

For the first thirty minutes of any hour, Russians talk about so many minutes of the next hour. Here are some examples:

пять минут первого
десять минут второго
пятнадцать минут третьего
двадцать минут четвёртого
двадцать пять минут пятого
половина шестого
five past 12
ten past 1
a quarter past 2
twenty past 3
twenty-five past 4
half past 5

The ordinal numbers used in this way are:


The most important thing to remember is that Russian always looks forward to the next hour. Arriving exactly one hour late could be very inconvenient!

After the half-way point:

After the half-way point one says that it is so many hours minus the number of minutes, i.e.:

без двадцати пяти час
без двадцати два
без пятнадцати три
без десяти четыре
без пяти пять
twenty-five to 1
twenty to 2
a quarter to 3
ten to 4
five to 5

The number after без 'without' has a new ending - и. It is wise to be aware of this since the number can sound quite different.

If this all seems daunting, remember that you won't necessarily ever need to use these times, just to understand them if you hear them.

Read and understand

7. Appointment books can bring order to one's life, but they can also wreak havoc... Read the following notices then explain why Volodya seems to have got everything wrong.

с 11 до 22
выходной день — вторник
Музей Пушкина
вт., ср. открыт с 10 до 18
чт., пт. открыт с 10 до 17
сб., вс. открыт с 14 до 18
выходной день — понедельник
с 8 до 21
перерыв с часу до двух
выходной день - воскресенье
кинотеатр 'Россия'
пн. 'Маленькая Вера', нач. в 20.00
вт., ср. 'Покаяние'
пт., сб. и вс. 'Баллада о солдате'
нач. в 19.30
I. в понедельник
11 часов — музей Пушкина
II. во вторник
12 часов — обед в кафе
III. в среду
20.00 - кино: 'Маленькая Вера'
IV. в четверг
1.30 - купить продукты в гастрономе
V. в пятницу
9 часов — музей Пушкина
VI. в субботу
8 часов вечера — кино: 'Баллада о солдате'
VII. в воскресенье
с 7 до 11 часов вечера — ужин в кафе

8. The following snatches of conversation have all become jumbled up and make no sense. Using the pictures to guide you, put them in the correct order.

I. Что вы любите делать зимой?
II. Магазин открывается в восемь часов
III. Сколько сейчас времени?
IV. Я ничего не делаю
V. Я люблю кататься на лыжах
VI. Почему нет поезда? Уже десять часов
VII. Пять минут пятого
VIII. Когда открывается ваш магазин?
IX. Что вы делаете в субботу?
X. Поезд опаздывает

Did you know

Выходные дни (days off)

Stores are open on Saturdays and Sundays, but for the majority of Russian people the working week ends on Friday. Parents who scarcely see their child or children during the week will spend a lot of time with them on Saturday and Sunday. Despite the fact that both parents normally work, in a two-parent family the father will typically play with the children while the mother cooks, cleans and searches the shops for necessary items.

Since the late 1980s, there has been greater freedom of worship, and a marked religious revival, and many will take time to worship in churches, synagogues or mosques. Even in the big cities, people do not very often go to the theater, movies or concerts. There are obviously exceptions, but for most people it is difficult to obtain tickets (the very verb used, достать, means 'to obtain with difficulty', the information is out of date). Few would eat out in restaurants or cafes except on special occasions, chiefly because such places are scarce. Of late, more have opened, but these are often prohibitively expensive, or require payment in foreign currency. The lack of activities and places for young people to go is particularly sharply felt.

The large cities may often seem transformed on weekends. If at all possible, urban dwellers try to escape the city. Excursions into the forest to pick mushrooms or vitamin-rich berries are favorite occupations. Anyone who can, rents (or buys) а дача, a small vacation house out of the city. For the average person, this will be no more than a hut, with few conveniences, and it may take a long time to get to it by public transportation. Nevertheless, these dachas are much sought after.

We have talked exclusively about city dwellers. In numerical terms the number of visitors from the countryside and smaller cities more than compensates for those leaving the city on weekends. Although these visitors do sightsee, in general they come to the big cities in order to buy food, clothes, and other items not available at home.

Your turn to speak

You will be a student finding his way around Moscow in the first part of this exercise, then you will have a chance to talk a little more about yourself. The following expressions will come in handy:

когда открывается...?
когда у вас перерыв?
каникулы начинаются / кончаются...
я люблю...
ходить в походы