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Time is precious – Study Tip

19th February 2017

Learning how to tell time is one of the first things new learners should do. But telling the time in English can be more complicated than reading some numbers from the clock.  Take a look at our Sunday #StudyTip post to make sense of the English timing system.

We have put together some phrases and tips, so hopefully you will now know how to express the different times of a day.

Choose which clock you want to use

There are two ways of telling the time in English – the 12- hour clock and the 24-hour clock. In the 24-hour clock, we use the numbers from 0-23 to indicate the hours, whereas in the 12-hour clock, we use the numbers from 1-12. In the UK, we normally use 12-hour clock.


Here are some things you need to know

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We only use ‘o’clock’ for precise hours.  It works for every hour on the clock, am and pm, but cannot be used when including minutes.

Example: I have a doctor’s appointment at 2 o’clock.


Quarter past 

When it is 15 minutes past the hour we normally say: (a) quarter past

e.g. 7:15 – It’s (a) quarter past seven

When it is 15 minutes before the hour we normally say: a quarter to

e.g. 12:45 – It’s (a) quarter to one


Half past 

When it is 30 minutes past the hour we normally say: half past

e..g 3:30 – It’s half past three (but we can also say three-thirty)


At + time

We use AT + time when giving the time of a specific event.

e.g.     The class starts at nine o’clock.

I leave work at half past four.


It is or it’s

We use IT IS or IT’S to answer a question that asks for the time right now.


What time is it? – It is half past eight.

What’s the time? It’s twenty to five.


AM vs. PM

We use a.m. (am) for the morning and p.m. (pm) for the afternoon and night.

3am = Three o’clock in the morning.

3pm = Three o’clock in the afternoon.


Test yourself! Write your answers in the comments below. 








Want to learn more? For more Study Tips, you can read our Study Tips posts.  

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