Knowing how to tell time correctly in English is important for everyday conversation. In English, there are two ways to tell time:
- Digital – which is also the easiest way to tell time.
- Classical - where you say the minutes first then the hour.
For 4:25, you could say:
It’s four - twenty five - as it would appear on a digital clock.
It’s twenty five after/past four
Rules for telling time using the classical method
- We use o’clock when it is exactly on the hour. Example: It’s nine o’clock. (9:00)
- For 15 minutes past the hour, we use “a quarter past/after”. Example: It’s a quarter past six. (6:15)
- For 15 minutes to the next hour, we use “a quarter to”. Example: It’s a quarter to six. (5:45)
- When it’s exactly 30 minutes past the hour, we use “half past”. Example: It’s half past two. (2:30)
- We use “past or after” to say times after the hour until 30 minutes past the hour. Example: It’s ten past three. (3:10)
- We use “to” for times after 31 minutes until the next exact hour. Example: It’s twenty to six. (6:40)
Some more examples:
1:00 - It’s one o’clock.
1:05 - It’s five past one.
1:15 - It’s a quarter past one. OR It’s a quarter after one.
1:30 - It’s half past one.
1:35 - It’s twenty-five to two.
1:45 - It’s a quarter to two.
We often use ‘in the morning’, ‘in the afternoon’, ‘in the evening’ to specify WHEN. However, for night, we do NOT say ‘in the night”; instead we say ‘at night’. i.e. Nine o’clock at night.
1:00 - It’s one o’clock in the morning. OR It’s one o’clock in the afternoon.
6:00 - It’s six o’clock in the morning. OR It’s six o’clock in the evening. - *Here we could also use ‘at night’ if it’s dark outside .like in the winter.
9:30 - It’s half past nine in the morning. OR It’s half past nine at night. - *In the summer, we would use ‘in the evening’ because it’s usually not dark at this time.
Asking the Time
There are a few ways that you can ask people the time in English. Here are the most common ways:
- What time is it?
- What’s the time?
- Could you tell me the time?
- Do you have the time?
- Have you got the time?