Telling the Time
There are two common ways of telling the time.
1) Say the hour first and then the minutes. (Hour + Minutes)
- 6:25 - It's six twenty-five
- 8:05 - It's eight O-five (the O is said like the letter O)
- 9:11 - It's nine eleven
- 2:34 - It's two thirty-four
2) Say the minutes first and then the hour. (Minutes + PAST / TO + Hour)
For minutes 1-30 we use PAST after the minutes.
For minutes 31-59 we use TO after the minutes.
- 2:35 - It's twenty-five to three
- 11:20 - It's twenty past eleven
- 4:18 - It's eighteen past four
- 8:51 - It's nine to nine
- 2:59 - It's one to three
When it is 15 minutes past the hour we normally say: (a) quarter past
- 7:15 - It's (a) quarter past seven
When it is 15 minutes before the hour we normally say: a quarter to
- 12:45 - It's (a) quarter to one
When it is 30 minutes past the hour we normally say: half past
- 3:30 - It's half past three (but we can also say three-thirty)
We use o'clock when there are NO minutes.
- 10:00 - It's ten o'clock
- 5:00 - It's five o'clock
- 1:00 - It's one o'clock
Sometimes it is written as 9 o'clock (the number + o'clock)
For 12:00 there are four expressions in English.
- twelve o'clock
- midday = noon
Telling the time video
Asking for the Time
The common question forms we use to ask for the time right now are:
- What time is it?
- What is the time?
A more polite way to ask for the time, especially from a stranger is:
- Could you tell me the time please?
The common question forms we use to ask at what time a specific event will happen are:
- What time does the flight to New York leave?
- When does the bus arrive from London?
- When does the concert begin?
Giving the Time
We use It is or It's to respond to the questions that ask for the time right now.
- It is half past five (5:30).
- It's ten to twelve (11:50)
We use the structure AT + time when giving the time of a specific event.
- The bus arrives at midday (12:00).
- The flight leaves at a quarter to two (1:45).
- The concert begins at ten o'clock. (10:00)
We can also use subject pronouns in these responses.
- It arrives at midday (12:00).
- It leaves at a quarter to two (1:45).
- It begins at ten o'clock. (10:00)
AM vs. PM
We don't normally use the 24-hour clock in English.
We use a.m. (am) for the morning and p.m. (pm) for the afternoon and night.
3am = Three o'clock in the morning.
3pm = Three o'clock in the afternoon.
Check out our grammar notes about using prepositions of time.
If you found this English Vocabulary about Telling the Time interesting or useful, let others know about it: