Answer to the Exercise on Telling Time in Mandarin

Correct Answer: A
In the Chinese language, there are many ways to talk about the time, but actually, their meanings and usages are quite different. The words “点(diăn)” and “点钟(diănzhōng),” which have the same meaning of “o’clock,” are not interchangeable. Similarly, “分(fēn)” and “分钟(fēnzhōng)” both mean “minute” but are also used differently.

点(diăn) and 点钟(diănzhōng)

The answer to the question “现在几点钟?(Xiànzài jǐ diănzhōng?)” can be both “八点(bā diăn) eight o’clock” or “八点钟(bā diănzhōng) eight o’clock” if the time is on the hour.
However, please pay special attention to the fact that “点钟(diănzhōng)” can only be used on the hour and not for times in between.


Qī diănzhōng qīdiăn
七     点钟    = 七点 = seven o’clock

Sān diănzhōng sāndiăn

三        点钟     = 三点 = three o’clock

When the time is not right on the hour, only “点(diăn)” can be used.
Correct: Liù diăn sìshí fēn
Correct: 六   点   四 十  分

Incorrect: Liù diănzhōng sìshí fēn
Incorrect: 六   点钟          四十  分

分(fēn) and 分钟 (fēnzhōng)

Though “分(fēn)” and “分钟(fēnzhōng)” both mean “minutes” in English, they too are used differently. “分(fēn)” is used to show the exact time, but “分钟(fēnzhōng)” is used to express a duration of time.


Q: Xiànzài jǐdiăn?
Q:现在   几点?
Q: What’s the time?

A: Sān diăn wŭshí fēn.

A:三   点     五十  分。
A: It’s 3:50.

Example 2:

Q: Zhè jié kè duō cháng shíjiān ?
Q: 这   节 课   多    长      时间 ?
Q: How long will the class last?

A: Sìshíwŭ fēnzhōng.
A: 四十五    分钟。
A: 45 minutes.

Regarding the test at the beginning, 8:32 is not on the hour and it’s the exact time, not a duration, so the correct answer is A.
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