Let’s Learn “Telling Time”

Let’s Learn “Telling 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
  • midnight

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…?


  • 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.

Telling the time in English

Source: Woodward English

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