Swahili in Tanzania

Telling Time

A notice board for train times

Tanzania operates with two different systems for telling time. When times are written in English or posted primiarly for visitors, time is reckoned using "English Time." English time is the same as Amercan Time with the day starting right after midnight and the designations "a.m." and "p.m." for morning and afternoon/evening. In "Swahili Time" one o'clock in the morning is equivalent to 7:00 a.m. in English Time (coincides with the beginning of daylight). One o'clock in the evening is equivalent to 7:00 p.m. in English Time (coincides with the beginning of evening darkness). Instead of a.m. and p.m., Swahili Time has six different time descriptors indicating different phases of day or night. These descriptors are given in the audio phrases and time chart below. When reading schedules or making appointments always make sure you know whether the time is English or Swahili. Schedules sometimes list times using both methods. Clocks may be set to either time.

Social occasions generally run behind schedule by a couple of hours. It is usually expected that people will start arriving well after the designated time. For business appointments, however, it is generally a good idea to arrive at the scheduled time.


Click on the text to hear the spoken phrase.