There are two common ways to tell the time in English.
The American way to tell the time is easier. You just need to say the hour followed by minutes.
05:15 It’s five fifteen
05:20 It’s five twenty
05:45 It’s five forty-five
The British way is a little more complicated. You need to say the minutes first and then the hour. We use the word past from the hour to 30 minutes. After 30 minutes we start using to
five past one
ten past one
a quarter past one
twenty past one
twenty-five past one
half past one
twenty-five to two
twenty to two
a quarter to two
ten to two
five to two
A quarter/ a half
We use a quarter because 15 minutes is a quarter of an hour(¼). The same is true for a half(½).
So when we want to say it is 15 minutes after 4(04:15), we can also say that it is a quarter past four. American English speakers also use a quarter after four.
When to use O’clock?
We use O’clock every time it is exactly on the hour. There are no extra minutes. That means 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock.
Twelve o’clock has different names in English
During the day it is called midday or noon.
At night it is called midnight.
Am is from midnight to midday. Usually, people sleep for the first part of Am and then wake up around 8 am.
Pm is from midday to midnight. Usually, people work or study in the afternoon and have dinner around 6 pm (depends on the country!)
Other times of the day in English
The morning is the time from 1 am until midday.
The afternoon is from midnight until around 5 pm.
The evening is from around 5 pm until 10 pm. The evening time is usually the time that it is dark but you are still doing things like going out for dinner. It depends on the season too.
The night is the time when it is dark and you are sleeping or going to bed. That is why “good night” is a common expression when people are going to bed.
Sunrise and Dawn are the start of the day when the sun appears.
We use Sunset, dusk, and twilight for the time when the sun is disappearing and this depends on the country and season.
How to ask the time in English
The most common ways to ask the time in English is:
What time is it?
What is the time?
Other more polite ways to ask the time are:
Do you know the time?
Could you tell me what time it is?
If you want to know the time of an event starts you can use:
When? (doesn’t need to be a specific time)
What time does the movie start?
When is your sister coming?
More questions from students
How do you say tell the time in English?
You can use the examples above to tell the time in English.
We start the sentence with “It is…..”
It is ten past five(05:10)
How do you say 45 minutes in English?
A quarter to
4:45 a quarter to five
How do you use past and to in time?
We use past until 30 minutes after the hour and to from half-past until the next hour.
What time is 15 minutes after 8?
A quarter past eight
Why do we say o clock?
When people started using clocks they started saying. It is 9 of the clock to tell the time. Before clocks people used the sun to tell the time.
Say the time exercise
Say the time or write the times of the clocks in the comments.