Expressing Time for intermediate learners

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 Do We Express Time?

Expressing time refers to representing a specific point in time using numbers. Time is typically expressed using hours, minutes, and seconds.

Parts of the Day

In the following list, you can see the different parts of the day:

  • Morning: 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 a.m.
  • Noon: 12 p.m.
  • Afternoon: 12:01 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Evening: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Night: 9:01 to 11:59:00 p.m.
  • Midnight: 12:00 a.m.

How to Tell Time

Time consists of three parts which are hours, minutes, and seconds. An 'hour' is 60 minutes. A minute is 60 seconds. When we want to indicate that the time is exactly on the hour and there are no minutes or seconds, we use the phrase 'o'clock'. Take a look at the following examples:

12:00 → twelve o'clock.

5:00 → five o'clock.

10:00 → ten o'clock

Using Minute and Second

When the time has minutes and seconds, we must indicate all of them. Study the following examples:

8:42 → It is eight forty-two.

1:55 → It is one fifty-five.

6:17 → It is six seventeen.

Warning!

It is important to remember that when expressing time, we do not add any connectors such as 'and', 'or', etc.

a.m. and p.m.

When we want to talk about time, we have to know how to use 'a.m.' and 'p.m.'. If the time is between midnight (12:00) and noon (12:00), we use 'a.m.' to show that it is in the period before noon. However, if it is between noon (12:00) and midnight, we use 'p.m.'. Study the following examples carefully:

02:00 p.m.

04:00 p.m.

01:00 a.m.

12:00 a.m. → midnight

Warning!

Please note that we can only use these two words when we do not have any minutes or seconds.

How to Tell Time in Sentences

When we want to make a complete sentence to express the time, we must use 'it' as the subject. Study the following examples carefully:

It is five twenty-five.

It is seven o'clock, mom.

When we want to ask questions about time in conversations, the same pronoun is used in the questions. Take a look at the following examples:

A : What time is it?

B : It is three o'clock.

A : What time is it?

B : It is two forty-six.

Quarter and Half

Every fifteen minutes is a quarter of an hour. Take a look at the following examples:

2:15 → It is two fifteen. / It is a quarter past two.

As you can see, we can use both sentences.

7:45 → It is seven forty-five. / It is a quarter to eight.

Warning!

Please note that when the minute is before '30', we use the word 'past', whereas when the minute is after '30', we use 'to' and indicate its distance to the next hour. Study the following examples carefully:

6:45 → It is six forty-five. / It is a quarter to 7.

As you can see, the minute is after '30'.

11:15 → It is eleven fifteen. / It is a quarter past eleven.

Here, the minute is still before '30'.

When thirty minutes have passed, we call it a half. Please note that we always use 'past' after this word. Take a look at the following examples:

06:30 → It is six thirty. / It is half past six.

12:30 → It is twelve thirty. / It is half past twelve.

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