How to Tell the Time in English (in words + exercises)

telling the time in English

There are two common ways to tell the time in English. 

American way

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

British way

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

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.

time in English

One 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 midday 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:

What time?

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.


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