Faculté des Langues

Telling time and talking about the date

Table of Contents

What Time Is It? (Telling time)

In US English, in figures, the time is written using the format hh:mm. In spoken English, round hours are often followed by "o'clock"; when there are minutes or fractions of an hour, "o'clock" is not used. In American English, it is quite unusual to use the 24-hour clock, so, in official contexts when accuracy is important (train or airline schedules, for example), times between midnight and noon are often followed by A.M. (ante-meridien), while times between noon and midnight are followed by P.M. (post-meridien). When "AM" or "PM" is used, "o'clock" is not. In less formal contexts, it is equally common to use "in the morning", "in the afternoon, or "in the evening"

1:00 = one o'clock / one (o'clock) in the morning / one AM.

10:00 = ten o'clock / ten (o'clock) in the evening / ten PM.

There are several ways of expressing times between the round hours.

2:30 = two thirty / two thirty in the morning / two thirty AM. OR (less formal): half past two [in the morning]

5:15 = five fifteen / five fifteen in the morning / five fifteen AM. OR (less formal): (a) quarter past two [in the morning]

6:10 = six ten / six ten in the evening / six ten PM. OR (less formal): ten (minutes) past six [in the afternoon]

9:45 = nine forty-five / nine forty-five in the morning / nine forty-five AM OR (a) quarter to/till/before/of ten [in the morning] (The choice of preposition is sometimes seen as a marker of regional language use; students should probably use "till" or "to")

8:03 = eight oh three / eight oh three PM. OR (less formal): three minutes past eight [in the evening]

"Right now, it is 10:21AM." [ten twenty-one AM]

"I'm expecting him at 10:45" [ten forty-five / (a) quarter before eleven]

"I live very close to campus, so I don't have to leave until 7:50 for my 8:00 o'clock class." [...seven fifty / ten minutes to eight for my eight o'clock class]

"Excuse me, can you tell me what time it is?" "Yes, it is 10:40." [ten forty / twenty minutes to eleven]

Back to Contents

What's Today? What Day is It? (The Date)

Dating a document (a contract, a letter, a check or the like)

US English: Month Date, Year (e.g., March 9, 2008) ("th", "nd", etc. are not usually written out in US English)

UK English: Date Month(,) Year (e.g., 9th March(,) 2008) (NB: "the" and "of" are not written out) (further NB: "th", "nd", etc. are often written out in UK English - students should take care to use them correctly, as appending "st" to a "3", for example, betrays an utterly complete failure to understand what is, after all, a very common usage.)

It is unusual in English to give the day of the week in dating a document.

Dates in other contexts (narrative, ordinary speech, etc.)

In spoken English, "the" and "of" are very often used: "Today is the ninth of March, 2008". (NB "today is..." or "it is... ", NOT "we are..."). In reading aloud from a letter dated March 9, 2008, the speaker might well say "March 9th, 2008", even though the "th" is not present in the written document.

Here is an example from a well-known American poem.

"Paul Revere's Ride"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1860)

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five*:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

* i.e., 1775

Back to Contents

There are a number of web-sites that give further information and advice on using expressions of time. Here are a couple:


esl.about.com (i.e., English as a Second Language at about.com)

Back to Contents

Université Jean-Moulin - Lyon 3
Faculté des Langues
Charles C. Hadley 2007-08
This page was last updated on mardi 18 mars 2008 at 9:00