How to Tell Time in English

How to Tell Time in English


Whenever a person wants to learn a new language,  they try to learn the numbers in the language first. Learning “how to tell time” in language is one of the first things that a person should learn and   learning about the time in language involves more than learning only about the numbers.  One must also be able to tell time correctly, and telling time in language is a thing that can become sometimes really confusing. In English language, many people struggle to tell difference between “quarter to” and “quarter past” for many years.

How to Tell Time in the English Language?

When we tell the time in the English language, we describe the span of time on an hourly basis. So, let us learn about how to tell hours in the English language:

1. Telling Hours in the English Language

It is quite simple to tell hours on clock  in the English language. You  just need  to mention the hours  like “03:00 O’clock” in the language. Alternatively, you can also say, “It is three”.

  • Mentioning O’clock in the English Language

When you mention hours in the English language, it is important to use O’clock at the end of the hour. You must always add O’clock by the hour. But remember that you must not include minutes in the daytime. You can only add time when you are mentioning hours. Here is an example of the description of the time in the English language:

Hours in Numbers

Hours in Words


One O’clock


Two O’clock


Three O’clock


Four O’clock


Five O’clock


Six O’clock


Seven O’clock


Eight O’clock


Nine O’clock


Ten O’clock


Eleven O’clock


Twelve O’clock

2. Saying Minutes in the English Language

There are many ways you can tell minutes in the English language. You can  say 05:03, 10:07, and 07:15. You can read them exactly the way they are written in the numbers. To read these numbers, you can pronounce zero as “Oh”. For example, you can say Five o Eight or Eight o seven etc. The time can be told in this way as in English language, we often refer to “Zero” (“o”) as “Oh” . When time is described saying “Oh”, it refers to the zero.

Also, saying Oh is quicker and easier than mentioning “zero”.  There are 60 minutes in an hour. So, we all must use any of these numbers for saying the time accurately. 

There are also many other ways to describe time in the English language. These ways are given below:

a. Half an Hour – 30 Minutes

Since an hour consists of 60 minutes, 30 minutes are half an hour. To indicate 30 minutes, speakers can say “half an hour”. You do not have to use the term exactly for 0:30 minutes. You use the term “half an hour” for indicating time between 0:25 minutes to 0:35 minutes.

Following are some of the examples of the Half an Hour:

How much longer until 3 AM?”

Only half an hour.”

b. Quarter of an Hour

Since half an hour consists of 30 minutes, a quarter of an hour consists of 15 minutes. Half an hour is a division of the hour, and a quarter is a division of half an hour. You also use the term quarter if the number is between 12 and 17 minutes.

There are two more terms that you can use with the quarter. These terms include until/till or past. Until is used when 15 minutes are left for the completion of an hour, while the past is used when 15 minutes have passed to the hour. When the time is 8:15, you can say “quarter past 08”. But when it is 8:45, you can say “quarter till 09:00”. Likewise, you have to use these two terms for indicating which quarter of an hour you are talking about.

Again you do not have to refer to the quarter of an hour if there are sharply 15 minutes left or 15 minutes passed down. There can be a difference of 3-5 minutes. If the time is 8:37, you can still say that it is a quarter till nine. Likewise, if the time is 8:47, you can still say that it is a quarter till nine.

Following are the best example sentences:

  • How much longer until 5 PM?”
  • About a quarter of an hour”

Or it can also be said:

  • About a quarter till 5 PM”

Another example is given below:

  • What time is it?”
  • It is quarter past 9 (for 9:15)”

3. Usage of AM and PM

Nighttime and daytime are denoted using two terms, which are AM and PM. People can denote the nighttime and daytime by adding one of these terms to the time described. These terms are explained below:

  1. AM (Morning Time)

AM is used for denoting morning time, which is the abbreviation of Ante Meridiem. Anti Meridiem term means before midday. This morning time starts at 12:00 AM in the night until 12:00 PM in the afternoon. Likewise, daytime lasts from 12:00 PM in the afternoon and 12:00 AM in the night.

Following is an example of the AM:

  • No matter how hard I try, I cannot start my day before 09:00 AM.
  1. PM (Daytime/nighttime)

PM is used for denoting the daytime and nighttime. PM is the abbreviation of the post-meridian, which means before midday. From 12:00 PM to 12:00 Am, all hours will be counted as the PM hours.

Following is a good example of the PM:

  • When will you arrive at the party?”
  • Around 10:00 O’clock.”
  • AM or PM?”
  • at 09:00 PM.”

4. Telling Time Using Different Parts of the Day

Numbers specify and denote the exact time, but you can use the general parts of the day for denoting the specific time of the day. You can use multiple parts of the day to denote time – when is happening what.

Following some of the parts of the day that you can use to denote the time generally:

a. Noon

Noon is explained as the sharp 12:00 PM – not one minute before or after. It has to be sharp 12:00 PM. This time occurs at the very initiation of the afternoon.

For example:

What time are you coming this weekend?”

I will come around noon. So, we can have lunch and lots of gossips.”

b. Midday (Middle Part of the Day)

Midday is used to refer to the time lying between 11:00 AM and 02:00 PM. This is also sometimes referred to as the noon time. This time basically means the middle part of the day. This is part of the day when people start eating and finishing lunch.

For example:

I can meet you at midday.”

c. Afternoon

This is the middle part of the day when noon has passed. So, it is called “afternoon”. The afternoon is the time that lies between 12:00 PM to 06:00 PM.

If you do not live near or around the equator, the time for the sunset alters according to the season. So, the sun sets around 04:15 PM or 04:00 PM in winters or 09:00 PM in the summers. So, your afternoon gets shorter or longer accordingly.

For example:

I will remain busy throughout the afternoon. So, I will see you for dinner.”

d. Midnight

As the word means, it is the middle part of the night. This time lies between 12:00 AM and 03:00 AM in the morning.

For instance:

People celebrate at midnight on New Year’s Eve.”

e. Twilight

Though you have known the word Twilight from its book, it is really a word. Twilight is the time when the sun sets down or the sun rises. The pinkish or grayish sky is the Twilight time.

For example:

I love the way sky glows at the twilight.”

f. After the Dark

This is the part of the time when nights get darker. This time extends between 09:00 PM and 03:00 AM. This term is not popularly used by the people today. But it is a good term for usage in captions or literary work.

g. The crack of the Dawn

The actual time of the crack of dawn is when the light starts appearing in the sky in the morning. It is the beginning of the day. In many religions, crack of the dawn is considered a precious and auspicious time.

Bottom Line

You must follow these simple rules in order to tell time perfectly. These are the basic rules of telling time that you must remember by heart. You can use the numbers as well as different parts of the day for a specified time.