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Tempo, Ora or Volta? – How To Say “Time” In Italian

Today I will explain in brief the difference between some words that create so much confusion among learners. How to translate the word “time”? Is it “tempo” or “volta”? And what about clock time?

1) Tempo:

We use this word to describe the passing of time (a), the weather (b), the tenses (c)

a) molto tempo – a long time / tanto tempo fa – a long time ago / tempo libero – free time / primo tempo di una partita – first half of a game, etc.

b) Che tempo fa? or Com’è il tempo? – what’s the weather like? / Il tempo è bello – the weather is nice;

c) tempo presente / tempo passato – present and past tense.

2) Volta:

We use this word to refer to a repetion of times, as in “occasionally” or “one single time”, “two times” etc. (a)

a) una volta – one time / due volte – two times / ogni volta – every time / qualche volta – sometimes, etc, molte volte – many times, etc.

3) Ora:

We use this word to talk about clock time. We can’t say (a), we can only say (b)! The word “ora” also translates as “now”.

a) Che tempo è? / A che tempo?

b) Che ora è? or Che ore sono? – what is the time? / A che ora? – at what time?



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