Both "几点" and "什么时候" seem to mean "what time?".

Here are two examples that contain "几点" or "什么时候":

  1. 我们什么时候开会? (My interpretation: "When is the meeting?")
  2. 现在几点? (My interpretation: "What time is it?")

Also, is there a way I could have found the answer to this question without asking someone? For example, maybe there is a website where I could search for instances of a word or phrase in a set of Mandarin sentences that have English explanations. I could see a pattern in usage by looking at enough examples.

Thank you.

Edit: I meant to ask, "Is there way I can find an answer to a question of this type without asking someone?", where the type of question is "Is there are difference between [Mandarin word/phrase 1] and [Mandarin word/phrase 2]?".

4 Answers 4


几点,as the 点 word implies, requires that your answer include a specific time, expressed in with reference to the clock, as in "five thirty pm" “ten minutes past six".

什么时候 is less specific, as 时候 means any time or period of time. Your answer can also be given just as if asked with 几点, but it can be anything else which bears sufficient information for answering your question, such as "tonight", "just now", "two hours later", "when my brother reaches home", "just before I sleep". Beyond the scope of 几点, 什么时候 extends beyond the limit of the day. Therefore, your answer can also be "two weeks ago", or "near the end of the year".

When asking questions, 什么时候 is a more flexible word, suitable for asking most questions, especially if your answer cannot be an exact time, e.g. "before I sleep" in the case that you don't sleep exactly the same time everyday. However, if you need the exact time, such as that of a meeting/event, 几点 would serve you better.

  • Excellent answer, thank you. I have also seen some slightly more formal occurrences of 几时 - can you speak to that? Apr 4, 2020 at 21:53

几点 means "what time?" (~"what o'clock?", if you need to put it that way), the answer is supposed to be something like 八点。 (At 8 o'clock, etc). (几 generally asks for or points to any number up to ~10 and 点 is among other meanings: o'clock.)

什么时候 is a general "when?", you can answer this question with anything that marks the time.

The way you could have found the answer: this is so basic, if you have a decent Standard Chinese text book, you should have encountered these expressions.

  • 1
    A textbook, or even the shortest Pimsleur course. Jan 31, 2015 at 10:48

几点 means "what time?", you need to answer time, i.e. 2 o'clock, 2:30. ...

什么时候 is a general "when?", the answer might be: this morning, tomorrow afternoon, last winter, ....


In ABC Chinese-English Dictionary, "Dian3" is "of time", and, "Shi2Hou4" is "a point in time".

As of the usage, "Dian3" is Noun, same as "Shi2Jian1", for answering "What it is". And "Shi2Hou4" is adverb, for answering "when to do it".

The ABC Dict is by John DeFrancis. I like it very much.

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