How to Tell the Time in English

Telling the time can be confusing in English. So I will make it easier for you!

Look at the image on this page. The times listed below give examples of how we tell the time using this method. Then I will demonstrate another way to tell the time: the digital time.

Usually we add p.m. or post meridian to talk about the time in the afternoon, or a.m. anti meridian to talk about the time in the morning. We can also simply add “in the morning/afternoon.”


It’s twelve o’clock = 12.00 a.m/p.m  (It’s midnight/noon)

It’s five past twelve = 12.05 a.m/p.m

It’s ten past twelve = 12.10 a.m/p.m

It’s a quarter past twelve = 12.15 a.m/p.m

It’s twenty past twelve = 12.20 a.m/p.m

It’s twenty-five past twelve = 12.25 a.m/p.m

It’s half past twelve = 12.30 a.m/p.m

It’s twenty-five to one = 12.35 a.m/p.m

It’s twenty to one = 12.40 a.m/p.m

It’s a quarter to one = 12.45 a.m/p.m

It’s ten to one = 12.50 a.m/p.m

It’s five to one = 12.55 a.m/p.m

So to summarise, we use the number of minutes and the word PAST after 12.00 until we get to 12.30. Then we use the number of minutes (remaining before the hour is complete) and the word TO.

Remember we say “a quarter past” which means XX:15, “half past” which means XX:30, and “a quarter to” which means XX:45.

4.15 = A quarter past four.

8.30 = Half past eight.

6.45 = A quarter to seven.

For the digital clock time we read it like this:

3.05 = Three “oh” five.

4.15 = four fifteen.

5.45 = five forty-five.

9.50 = nine fifty.


Asking for and telling the time in English

Excuse me, could you tell me what time it is please?

Sure. It’s a quarter past seven (7.15).

What’s the time? 

It’s nine o’clock. 

What time is it?

It’s three forty-five (3.45)

Asking information about scheduled times

  • When does the train get in from Bath?
  • What time does the ferry to Calais leave?
  • When does the football match begin?

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Teacher Dominic


© Dominic Christopher Elliston and 2016/7. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dominic Christopher Elliston and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.