The meaning of jikan (時間) in Japanese and how to use it

This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the Japanese word jikan, including its Japanese definition and translation, usage, example sentences, related expressions, and more!

What does jikan mean?

The Japanese word jikan (時間、じかん) means time or hour(s). For example, you would say jikan ga arimasen to politely tell someone that you don’t have time. The casual equivalent is jikan ga nai. Both arimasen and nai come from the verb aru (有る or ある; to be, to exist), so you’re literally saying there isn’t time.

Conversely, jikan ga aru (informal) and jikan ga arimasu (polite) are the positive versions meaning that you do have time. Let’s take a look at all four forms below.

Jikan ga arimasu.
I have time (polite).

Jikan ga arimasen.
I don’t have time (polite).

Jikan ga aru.
I have time (casual).

Jikan ga nai.
I don’t have time (casual).

Think of the “ga” particle as just a grammar word for now. There’s no need to try to master it yet, just notice where it sits in sentences.

Example sentences using jikan (time)

Jikan is the Japanese word for time or hour.

Below, we take a look at some more examples of how to use jikan in Japanese when talking about time (see the next section for examples of when jikan refers to hours).

To make it easier for you, I have written each sentence in full Japanese kanji on the first line, followed by roman letters (romaji), and hiragana, with the English meaning coming last. I have also highlighted the new word in bold.

Ima nara jikan ga aru yo.
I have time now.

Okane yori jikan ga daiji desu.
Time is more important than money.

Sumimasen. Kyou wa chotto jikan ga arimasen.
Sorry. I don’t have time today.

Kyoushuku desu ga, raishuu wa jikan ga arimasu ka?
Sorry to trouble you, but do you have time next week?

Example sentences using jikan (hours)

When a number is placed in front of jikan, the meaning becomes hour or hours.

Shukudai wa ni jikan de owatta.
I finished my homework in two hours.

Ato ichi jikan de nenakya ikenai.
I have to go to bed in one hour.

What is the phrase jikan desu?

The expression jikan desu (時間です、じかんです) means it’s time or time’s up. For example, at the end of a test your teacher might say jikan desu when the allotted time has been used up. Note that desu is a polite word that’s roughly equivalent to “is” in English.

Minna san, mou jikan desu!
Time’s up everyone!

You can also use jikan desu to say that it’s time to do something.

Neru jikan desu yo.
It’s time for bed.

Soro soro kaeru jikan desu ne.
I suppose it’s time to go home.

What does jikan ga kakaru mean?

Jikan ga kakaru (時間が掛かる、じかんがかかる) means it takes time. You use this phrase to say that something will not be finished immediately – it might take a while.

Kono kadai wa jikan ga kakaru.
This task will take time.

You can add the emphasizer sugoku to say that it will take a long time.

Kore wa sugoku jikan ga kakaru kamoshirenai.
This might take a long time.

When using numbers to refer to hours (as we did above), jikan ga kakaru means that something will take a specific amount of time.

Kaisha made ichi jikan ga kakaru.
It takes me one hour to get to work.