The difference between “ora”, “tempo” and “volta”

Ora, tempo, volta all express, in different ways, the idea of time in English.

However, they can’t be used interchangeably and there’s a stark difference between all of them.

So, what’s the difference between these three words? 

When ORA means time

Ora (or ore, in the plural form ) is used to ask the time

  • Che ora è? – What time is it? 
  • Che ore sono? –  What time is it? 

(Both questions are equally used)

Ora is also used in the common expression it’s time to…

  • E ora di andare a letto! – It’s time to go sleep 

Ora has another common meaning in Italian, which is now. In this case, ora is a synonym of adesso

  • Ora andiamo a casa, ragazzi! – Now, we go home kids!

Ora is also used in the common Italian idiom non vedo l’ora, which means. I can’t wait or I look forward to.

  • Non vedo l’ora che arrivi l’estate – I can’t wait for the summer 

When TEMPO means time

The word tempo is used to describe the abstract idea of time or the passing of time. 

  • Il tempo vola – time flies
  • Hai tempo per oggi? – Do you have time for me today? 
  • Non ho mai tempo per i miei amici – I never have time for my friends 

Tempo is also used in many time expressions too, for instance 

  • Molto tempo – long time
  • Molto tempo fa – a long time ago 
  • Poco tempo fa – a short while ago 
  • Pl tempo libero – free time 

But tempo also means weather, and so it used to speak about the weather…

  • Che tempo fa? – How is the weather? 
  • Il tempo è bello oggi – It’s nice/sunny today 

When VOLTA means time

Volta (or volte, the plural fom) is generally used in combination with other words resulting in time expressions.

We use volte to say how many times you have done something.

  • Molte volte – many times 
  • Poche volte – few times
  • Qualche volta – sometimes 
  • Una volta – once 
  • Due volte – twice
  • etc..

We use the word volta in expressions like the first time, the second time, etc..

  • Prima volta – first time
  • Seconda volta – second time
  • Etc…

And, finally, we use volta in several other time expressions like 

  • C’era una volta – once upon time
  • Una volta – once
  • Un poco alla volta – little by little 

About the Author

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I'm Serena!

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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