Telling the time

Ask the time

What’s the time?/What time is it?

Answer the time
Way 1: Formal and easier
Say the hours first and then the minutes.
Example: 7:45 - seven forty-five

Way 2: Most popular
Say the minutes first and then the hours. Use "past" and the preceding hour for minutes 01 through 30. Use "to" and the forthcoming hour for minutes 31 through 59.

Example: 7.18 - eighteen past seven

Example: 7.50- ten to eight


  • To express '15 minutes past' we say: a quarter past
  • To express '15 minutes to' we say: a quarter to
  • To express '30 minutes past' we say: half past
  • To express 'the exact hour' we say: o'clock

Example: 5:30 - half past five 8:00 - eight o'clock


Other cases

For times around midnight or midday you can use the expressions midnight or midday / noon instead of the number 12.

12:00 - midday or noon  
00:00 - midnight  


More formal expressions to indicate whether a time is before noon or after are:

  1. a.m. (ante meridiem, before noon)
  2. p.m. (post meridiem, after noon).


Use these expression only with the formal way of telling the time.

Example: 3:15 - three fifteen a.m.

It is not usual to use a.m. and p.m. with past/to.

Example: 3:15 - fifteen minutes past three OR a quarter past three