Expressing Time

Expressing time is not just about time and numbers. In this lesson, we will learn how to tell time and learn more about it.

Expressing Time in English Language

How to Express Time?

There are different parts of the day which can be expressed by their time or even without it. First of all, let us get to know parts of the day.

Parts of the Day

Parts of The Day

On this list, you can see different parts of the day with their approximate time:

  • Morning 12:01 am.- 11:59 am.
  • Noon 12:00 pm.
  • Afternoon 12:01 pm. - 5:00 pm.
  • Evening 5:01 pm. - 9:00 pm.
  • Night 9:01 pm. - 11:59 pm.
  • Midnight 12:00 am.

Remember the time is unexact and it can change based on the geographical area.

Different Ways to Tell the Time

One way to read the time is to tell it in a digital way. Another way is to use an analogue way.

Digital Time

A digital clock only shows the numbers and it has no hands. When reading these clocks, you just read the numbers you see one by one. Look at the examples for more information.

02:45 = It is two forty-five.

09:30 = It is nine thirty.

When you are reading a digital clock you have to read the hour as a separate number and the minutes as another number. Just remember, whenever the minutes are less than ten you should use oh to stand for zero in the clock and if there are two zeros in the minute section, you have to read it as o'clock. For example:

02:02 = It is two oh two.

07:12 = It is seven twelve.

Analogue Time

An analogue (also analog) clock has three hands, one is to measure the hour, one is to measure the minute, and the other is to measure seconds.

To and Past

When the minute hand stays at a number before six, you have to use the word past to tell the time; but when the minute hand is on a number after six, you use the word to. Here are some examples:

04:12 → It is twelve past four.

08:45 → It is fifteen to nine.

Using the Word 'Minute'

When you are telling the time, you do not usually use the word minute, but you can also use it to be clear. For example:

03:16 → It is sixteen minutes past three.

07:40 → It is twenty minutes to eight.

Using O'clock

When there are no minutes you can express it by either not reading it or using o'clock. Here are a few examples:

11:00 → It is eleven o'clock.

06:00 → It is six o'clock.

What Is a Quarter in Time?

Every fifteen minutes in time is called a quarter, so when there are fifteen minutes in time we can also use a quarter. The following examples are the same:

06:45 → It is fifteen to seven./ It is a quarter to seven.

07:15 → It is fifteen past seven./ It is a quarter past seven.

What Is Half in Time?

Every thirty minutes in time equals a half. As a result, we can use it instead of thirty minutes. Look at the examples:

11:30 → It is eleven thirty./ It is half past eleven.

10:30 → It is half past ten.

The Rule with Thirty Minutes and Half

When the minute hand is on six, we do not use the word to, instead, we just use the word past to tell the time. Check out the examples:

09:30 → It is half past nine.

10:30 → It is half past ten.

How To Tell Time on An Analogue Clock?

Down below, you can see how to tell the Analogue time as it is shown in the picture:

Analogue Time

Asking The Time

There are many ways to ask the time no matter who you asking or what the situation is, it is very important to have polite diction. Here are some common ways to ask the time.

What Time Is It?

This is the most common question for asking time. This is an informal way to ask the time, there are some more similar expressions for informal situations too:

What is the time?

What's the time by your watch?

Do you know the time?

What time is it now?

Could You Please Tell Me The Time?

Using "could you" and "please" can make a formal phrase for you to ask the time, if you want to sound even more polite you can use the following examples:

Would you tell me what time is it now?(please)

Would you mind if i ask you the time?

very polite

What Time...

There are other structures to ask about specific times, let's check some examples:

What time does the show start?

What time should we get there?

We can also replace 'what time' with 'when' to ask these questions.

When does the show start?

When should we get there?


We should pay attention to not confuse 'asking for time' with 'asking the time', if you are asking the time you simply want to know what is the time or how long will something take or what time something happens, but if you are asking for time it means you are requesting someone to give you some of their time or asking when do they have free time.

How to Tell the Time

we have learned how to tell the time in the ways we have mentioned above. Let's go through some possible answers together. If someone asks you about what time is it now you can answer them using 'It Is' or 'It’s'.

what time is it now? It's 5 o'clock.

Would you mind telling me what time is it now please? It is half past ten.

If someone asks you about a specific time, you can answer them using 'at + the time'

What time does the show start? It starts at 5:45.

What time should we get there? we should get there at noon.

It is also possible that you don't know the time or you do not have a watch on you, at these cases we can use the following phrases.

Sorry, I don't have a watch on me.

Sorry, I don't know the time.

Prepositions For Telling The Time

There are three prepositions that we can use for time.


We usually use 'at' for showing a specific time.

At 12:00.

At night.

At dinner time.

At the moment.


We can use 'on' for telling the day or dates.

On monday.

On 31 October.

On Christmas day.

On my birthday.


We can use 'In' to show longer periods, months, years and so on.

In November.

In winter.

In 2022.

In the future.

AM and PM

A day has 24 hours. using a 12-hour clock system indeed makes it a bit confusing for us to tell the time. That is why we use AM and PM to clarify. Let’s see what they stand for:
AM is an abbreviation form of the Latin Ante meridiem meaning before noon, and PM is an abbreviation form of the Latin post meridiem meaning after noon. Therefore we use AM for the time after midnight (12 midnight) until midday (12 midday), and we use PM for after midday (12 midday) until midnight(12midnight). Let's see some examples:

It's 4 AM.

It's 4 after midnight, very early in the morning.

It's 4 PM.

It's 4 after midday, almost in the evening.

In British English usually write a.m. and p.m. in lowercase and with full stops. In American English usually write them in uppercase letters and without full stops (AM-PM). They both are correct and you can use them how you want.

Military Time

Military time is a 24 hours system of measuring time; it is also referred to as '24-hour clock'. Most Americans do not use this system. Military time always has four digits starting at 0000 (zero hundred) and finishing at 2359 (twenty-three fifty-nine). From 0000 to 1159 is converted to PM time, and from 1200 to 2359 is converted to AM time. Here are some examples:

0300 (zero, three-hundred)

It is converted to 3 AM.

0230 (zero, two - thirty)

It is converted to 2:30 AM.

1500 (fifteen hundred)

It is converted to 3 PM.

1430 (fourteen thirty)

It is converted to 2:30 PM.


When we write the time in its numeral form, we can use different punctuation. We can use colon, period, and in military case no punctuation at all.

8:35 PM

8.35 PM


no punctuation


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