I know telling time in English, you can say "It is 3:30" or "It is half past 3" and they can be used interchangeably.

When telling the time in Japanese, is this still the case? Can you use "今{いま}は3時{じ}30分{ぷん}です" and "今{いま}は3時{じ}半{はん}です" interchangeably? Or are there contexts where it is more appropriate to use one over the other?

1 Answer 1


In most situations, including ordinary business exchanges, they are completely interchangeable. Maybe 半 is a bit more common in casual conversations simply because it's easier to pronounce, but saying 30分 is always safe.

30分 is preferred in formal written text and technical contexts where consistency and clarity is important, but I guess "half past 3" is not used in such situations, either.

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    As a side note (not sure if this warrants a new question), how about for minutes greater than 30? Would you still say XX時YY分 or XX時(60 - YY)分前? Commented Nov 12, 2020 at 10:33
  • @JansthcirlU We do say 5時3分前, 12時5分前 and so on, but it's not as common as 半 because it's not very shorter. 5時ちょっと前 is relatively more common.
    – naruto
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 2:54

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