One-Point English Lesson: Saying the Time

Michael Uncategorized 2 Comments

When you want to say the time, there are a number of different expressions you can use. Let’s look at these today. First of all, we use the expression tell the time or tell time:

  • Children learn how to tell time when they are in kindergarten.
  • My friend Jack can tell the time in five different languages.

When you read a digital clock, telling the time is straightforward. We usually just read the digits as shown on the clock, like this:

  • 12:15 is read as twelve fifteen.
  • 2:35 is read as two thirty-five.
  • 5:50 is read as five fifty.

When you read an analog clock, you remember those, right? I’m talking about the round clocks with the hands. When reading those, you can also tell the time digital style, as above. In addition, there are some unique expressions we use:

When the time is 15 minutes past the hour, we usually say a quarter after (hr), so 2:15 is a quarter after two:

Between :01 and :29, we generally say (mm) after (hr), where mm is the minute and hr is the hour, so 2:20 is twenty after two:

When the time is 30 minutes past the hour we can say half past (hr), so 2:30 is half past two:

Note: In British English you can say two half for 2:30

Between :31 and :59, we generally say (mm) to (hr), where mm is the minute and hr is the hour, so 2:40 is twenty to three:

Following the above example, 2:50 would is ten to three, 2:55 is five to three, etc.

When the time is 45 minutes past the hour, we usually say a quarter to (hr), so 2:45 is a quarter to three:


Update! When the time is between :01 and :09, we usually read the 0 as oh, so 2:09 is two oh nine. (thanks Mary)


This is the basic way to tell time in English. What time do you usually wake up in the morning? I usually wake up at six fifteen. Leave a comment here and let me know.

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Thanks for studying today!