Telling the time in English

Telling the time in EnglishTelling the time in English. On this page, let’s look at telling the time. This is more than just numbers – you need to be able to use different phrases. Let’s start by looking at parts of the day.

 

Time Part of the day
0:00 to 12:00 Morning
0:00 to 11:59 A.M.
12:00 Midday / Noon
12:00 – 23:59 P.M.
12:01 to 18:00 Afternoon
18:00 to 22:00 Evening
22:00 – 23:59 Night
0:00 Midnight

Some example phrases for hours:

  • 9:00 – It’s nine o’clock in the morning / It’s nine o’clock / It’s nine a.m.
  • 12:00 – It’s midday / it’s 12 noon / It’s noon / It’s twelve o’clock
  • 3:00 – It’s three o’clock in the afternoon / It’s three o’clock / It’s three p.m.
  • 19:00 – It’s seven o’clock in the evening / It’s seven o’clock / It’s seven p.m.
  • 23:00 – It’s eleven o’clock at night / It’s eleven o’clock / It’s eleven p.m.

 

Now let’s look at the phrases used for parts of an hour.

From 1 minute past the hour to 30 minutes past the hour (for example from 3:01 to 3:30), we use the phrase ‘past’

3:10 – It’s ten past three.

9:25 – It twenty five past nine.

For 31 minutes past the hour to 59 minutes past the hour (for example from 3:31 to 3:59), we use the phrase ‘to’

3:40 – It’s twenty to four.

9:55 – It’s five to ten.

There are three other clock times that you need to know, where one hour is divided into 15 minute sections:

  • 3:15 – It’s quarter past three / It’s three fifteen.
  • 6:30 – It’s half past six / It’s six thirty.
  • 11:45 – It’s quarter to twelve/ It’s eleven forty five.

NOTE: American English uses ’till’ instead of ‘to’ (e.g. 9:55 – It’s five till ten. 11:45 – It’s quarter till twelve)

In most conversations, when telling the time in English, you already know the hour – you just need to know the minutes.

For example:

  • John: What time is it? I think my lunch break is over.
  • Jane: It’s twenty five past, and you don’t start work until half past. You’ve got another 5 minutes.

When you are talking about approximate time, you can use ‘nearly’ or ‘just gone/just after’.

Here are some other expressions that you can use to ask about the time.

  • Do you have the time?
  • What time is it?
  • What is the time?
  • Do you know what time is it?
  • Can you tell me what time it is, please?
  • Could you tell me the time, please?
  • What time do you make it?

 

Let’s review this page:

  • Sue: What time do you start work tomorrow?
  • Dave: 10 o’clock in the morning, but I have a break at midday.
  • John: Excuse me, can you tell me what time it is, please?
  • Dave: Yes, it’s just gone eleven.
  • Jane: What time do you make it?
  • Dave: It’s nearly half past.
  • John: Do you have the time?
  • Eric: It’s quarter to four.

Now practice your skills with an exercise. Click the link in the table below to see what you know about telling the time!

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