Lesson 9. The Complete Guide to Time in English
Knowing how to tell the time in the correct way will make you look like a native when you are visiting an English-speaking country. Recommended background: The Complete Guide of Numbers in English. Let’s learn about the time in English here!
Asking the Time in English
The most basic way to ask the time in English is:
What time is it?
Telling the Time in English
We use ‘of the clock’ (o’clock) to express the full hour. In simple, it is used when there is no minute available. Examples:
To answer in a full sentence, use the dummy subject: it is (shortened as it’s).
It is seven o’clock.
It is 7:00.
If there are minutes after the hour, do not use o’clock. There are two common ways to tell time in English: an easy and a general way.
The hours come first and followed by the minutes.
Structure: Number (Hours) + Number (Minutes)
For minutes from :01 until :09, pronounce ‘the number zero’ as ‘the letter o’.
Three o two.
Ten o five.
In a general way, people use the word ‘past’ or ‘to’ between minutes and hours. The word ‘past’ is used for the minutes between 01 and 30, while ‘to’ is for minutes between 31 and 59.
Structure: Number (Minutes) + Past/To + Number (Hours)
Ten past eleven.
Eleven past ten.
Since the minutes are mentioned earlier, we do not need to use the letter o for minutes from :01 to :09.
Five past three.
Nine past four.
For expressing the full time (hours, minutes, and seconds included), use the following:
Structure: Number (Hours) + Number (Minutes) + Number (Seconds) + Seconds
Eleven fifty-nine fifty-nine seconds.
Three fifteen thirty-five seconds.
a.m. and p.m.
To make the time distinction clear, English generally use the 12-hour clock system. We use ante meridiem (a.m.) to refer time between midnight 00:00 and midday 12:00 (before midday), while post meridiem (p.m.) refers to the time between midday 12:00 and midnight 12:00 (after midday). Therefore:
8.00 a.m. = 8 o’clock in the morning (08:00).
8.00 p.m. = 8 o’clock in the evening (20:00).
12.00 a.m. = 12 o’clock in the night (midnight).
12.00 p.m. = 12 o’clock in the afternoon (midday).
Note that we use the colon (:) to separate the 24-hour clock system. On the other hand, dot (.) is used to separate the 12-hour clock system.
Quarter and Half
Another way to express time is by using quarter and half. Quarter means 15 minutes, while half means 30 minutes in term of time. Thus:
6:15 can be expressed by:
a quarter past six
fifteen past six
6:30 can be expressed by:
half past six
thirty past six
6:45 can be expressed by:
a quarter to seven
forty-five past six
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