# 5 Simple Rules for Telling Time in English

Hello friends! Telling about time in English can be confusing. I’m happy to help! There are some rules to remember, please:

## #1. Tell Time in English: Use ‘Past’ or ‘To’

As we know, there are 60 minutes in an hour. With minutes 1 – 29, we say that the hour has passed (or after). For example, “Three ten minutes” or 3:10. Or another example, “It’s twenty after eight,” or 8:20. With minutes 31 – 59, we come to (next hour). For example, at 10:40, we say “It’s been twenty to eleven” (Eleven minus twenty minutes). Or when 3:50 we say “It’s 10 to 4” (Four minus ten minutes). Remember, it is always correct to say “It’s 3:50 now”. But many times, you will hear people say “It is fourteen”. English learners should be aware of that. And they should feel comfortable using “past, after, and coming” to denote time.

### #2. When to use ‘a quarter’ and ‘half’

As we said, there are 60 minutes in an hour. We divide our time into quarters and halves. It’s confusing at first, but it makes expressing time easier. At the 15th minute we say “a quarter”. Or we say, it’s “next quarter”. Both “previous quarter” and “next quarter” are equally true. So when it’s 7:15, we say “seven-fifteen”. Or when it’s 1:15, we say it’s “1/4 after one”. At 45 minutes we say it’s “a quarter” of the next hour. For example, at 5:45 we say “six-fifteen” (or 15 minutes before 6:00). At 30 minutes we say “half”. So at 9:30 we would say “nine-thirty” (or half an hour after 9:00). Again, remember that you can say “It’s 7:15”. Or “It’s 5:45 now”. But you’re sure to hear people say “It’s four after seven o’clock”. Or “It’s one hour and fifteen minutes”. So I encourage you to get comfortable and confident in the quarters and halves.#3. AM or PM: What time is it? As we all know, there are 24 hours in a day. The hours 1 to 11 are pretty straightforward. In the 9th hour, we just say “It’s 9:00”. But 12 to 24 hours can be a little different than what other cultures are used to. During the hours 0 to 12, we call this “SA”. So for the hour 7 (morning), we say “It’s seven o’clock in the morning” (7:00 am). During the hours from 12 to 24, we call this “afternoon”. So, for example, at 14, we say “It’s two o’clock in the afternoon.” Again, there are cultural differences that can make “SA” and “CH” a bit confusing. For example, my Brasilian students tell me that at the 17th hour, they say “That’s seventeen hundred.” We just say “It’s five o’clock” (5:00 p.m.).*** It is NOT important to know this. But “AM” stands for “Ante Meridiem” (Latin). And “PM” stands for “Post Meridiem” (also Latin). #4. Do not turn on. Midday. Midnight At 12 o’clock we say “noon”. Sometimes you also hear people say “midday”. At 24 we say it’s “midnight”. “Noon” is 12 midnight and “midnight” is 12 am (Start of a new day or 24-hour cycle.)#5. When to use O’clock At the beginning of every hour we use the term “hour”. Example: “It’s one o’clock” (1:00). Or “It’s four o’clock” (4:00). A common mistake I see with English learners is that they will use the term “hour” at the wrong time. For example, we do NOT say “It is six-thirty” (6:30). And we do NOT say “It is eleven-fifteen” (11:15). We just say “hour” at the exact time. Example: “It’s four o’clock” (4:00). Or “It’s eight o’clock” (8 o’clock).