"What time is it" versus "what is the time"



Does it matter if I use "what time is it?" versus "what is the time?".
In what cases should I use what time is it?

For example would I say:

Hey steve! what is the time?


Hey steve! what time is it?

or is there another way to express the same meaning in English?

Thanks in advance.

Trevor Clarke

Posted 2015-01-28T17:08:59.350

Reputation: 1 005



The most common idiomatic phrase is "What time is it?" If you don't have a specific reason to say something different, you should simply say, "What time is it?"

"What's the time?" is also correct, but maybe slightly less common. ("What is the time?" sounds slightly stilted and foreign to native speakers.)

Other idiomatic phrases might be "Hey, Steve, what time do you have?" or "Hey, Steve, do you have the time?" or "Hey, Steve, do you know the time?"

Source: I am a native US English speaker, born and raised in New York City.


Posted 2015-01-28T17:08:59.350

Reputation: 25 636


When you say:

Hey Steve, what is the time?

you are specifically asking what the time (on a clock) is. A reply could be:

Steve, it is 9:00AM.

The emphasis is on "time".

But when you say:

Hey Steve, what time is it?

while you could reply the same way, the empasis here is on "it". So you could also refer to what "it" is (besides the actual time). For example you could reply:

Steve, it is time to go the beach.


Posted 2015-01-28T17:08:59.350

Reputation: 29 679


Hmm.. my first thought when someone says "What's the time?" is "time to get ill" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWf3cOdJS5I ) Second thought is "slime time" ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMJaddo_AHQ ) Then I realize I am dating myself, snap out of it and say "Six thirty"

– Adam – 2015-03-26T16:08:45.783

I'll see you and raise you, Adam: "Say, kids, what time is it?" "Howdy Doody time!"

– Gary Botnovcan – 2017-09-28T17:57:49.127