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Exercise 1

1. The time

To know how to tell time in English we must take into account that there are two ways to express it: the traditional way and the digital way. In both cases the verb to be is used either to ask about the time or to answer.
- What time is it?
- It is / It's 12 o'clock.

A more formal way would be the following:

- Could you tell me the time, please?
- It is / It's quarter past two.

1. The traditional way

It's the most common and colloquial way of telling the time. It is expressed according to the hands of the clock. We say the minutes first and then the hour.

We divide the clock in two halves. From twelve to six (the first 30 minutes), we have the past half; from six to twelve (the last 30 minutes), we have the to half.

  • O'clock and half past

    When the minute hand is at twelve, we say the hour and the o'clock. When it's at six, we say half past.

    It's + hour + o'clock
    It's five o'clock.
    It's half past + hora
    It's half past eleven.
  • Quarters

    When the minute hand is at three (15 minutes past the hour), we say (a) quarter past. When it's at nine (15 minutes before the next hour), we say (a) quarter to.

    It's + (a) quarter + past + hour
    It's quarter past two.
    It's (a) quarter to + hour
    It's quarter to ten.
  • Other times

    We'll say the minutes first, followed by past (for minutes 1 to 30) or to (for minutes 31 to 59), and then the hour.

    It's + minutes + past + hour
    It's ten past four.
    It's + minutes + to + hour
    It's twenty to twelve.
  • The time zones

    This way of expressing the time does not allow us to place it in the correct time zone (morning, afternoon or evening), although in most cases we will know by the context. If that's not so, we'll have to specify the time zone.

      Uso Ejemplo
    In the morning From sunrise to 12 noon It's nine o'clock in the morning.
    In the afternoon From 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm It's quarter past three in the afternoon.
    In the evening From 6 pm to midnight It's half past seven in the evening.
    In the night From midnight to dawn It's two o'clock in the night.

2. Digital clock

There is another way to tell the time in English, which is to say the hour first and then the minutes, like in digital clocks.

It's + hour + minutes
It's six twenty-one.
It's six o'clock.
The time on the dot does not vary.
It's one oh five.
In this case the 0 is pronounced and written "oh".
It's eleven o'clock.
The most common is to use the 12 hour system, although the 24 hour system can be used.
In official timetables, as in the case of transport, the international system of dividing time into 24 hours is followed.

3. P.M. and A.M.

When using the 12-hour digital time system, we sometimes don't know which time of day we are referring to.

A.M. and P.M. are two abbreviations that help us place the time in the corresponding time zone.

  Horas comprendidas AbreviatION EXAMPLES
First period From 00:00h to 11:59h A.M.
(ante meridiem)
before midday
Our plane leaves at 7 a.m.
Second períod From 12:00h to 23:59h P.M.
(post meridiem)
after midday
I have a meeting at 4 p.m.
These abbreviations are only used to indicate the digital time, never the traditional one.

4. Otras formas de expresar el tiempo

When it's 12:00 we can say it's 12 midday or 12 noon. When it's 00:00 we can say it's 12 midnight.

The exam will be at 12 midday / noon.
It was 12 midnight and the baby was still crying.