Expressing Time in English


"Do you have the time?" "Do you know what time it is?" "What time is it?" What's the time?" - All these are popular conversation starters between strangers.

On the Hour

Different ways of saying 10.00 h: ten o'clock      ten      ten o'clock sharp

Other Times, Formal

The formal way of expressing time is to simply say the hour first, and then the minutes.

7.20 -> "seven twenty"
11.03 -> "eleven oh three"
12.30 -> "twelve thirty"
6.08 -> "six oh eight"

Other Times, Informal

A more informal way of expressing time involves the words "to" and "past". If time is expressed this way, the minutes are stated before the hour.

8.20 -> "twenty past eight"
10.55 -> "five to eleven"
2.11 -> "eleven (minutes) past two"
4.50 -> "ten to five"

15 minute intervals are also called "quarter", and 30 minute intervals "half".


7.30 -> "half past seven"
4.15-> "quarter past four"
6.45 -> "quarter to seven"
10.30 -> "half ten" (British)

A.M. and P.M.

When we use the formal way of expressing time ("ten thirty" or "four fifteen") and want to clarify whether we are talking about the morning or the evening, we use "a.m." (morning) and "p.m." (afternoon or evening).

A.M. is short for "ante meridiem" (Latin for "before noon"), so it is added when we talk about the morning (before 12.00).

P.M. is short for "post meridiem" (Latin for "after noon"), so it is added when we talk about the afternoon or evening (after 12.00).


4.15-> four fifteen a.m.
7.30 -> seven thirty a.m.
18.45 -> six forty five p.m.
22.20 -> ten twenty p.m.

Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Evening, Night

When we express time in the informal way, often, other words like "in the morning" or "at night" are added to clarify what time of the day we mean.


8.00 - eight (o'clock) in the morning
15.00 - three (o'clock) in the afternoon
20.00 - eight (o'clock) in the evening/ eight o'clock at night
0.00 - midnight
0.30 - half past midnight
7.15 - quarter past seven in the morning

Expressing Time in English
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