Language survey: "five of nine"

An expression I’ve heard from time to time from Americans, but never, ever Canadians, is “five of nine,” as a time.

Now the peculiar thing is that I believe I’ve heard this from different parts of the US meaning either five to nine, or five past nine (as a Canadian would say).

Therefore, please state:

a) your location;
b) whether you would say “five of nine”;
c) whether it means 8:55 or 9:05.

  1. Vancouver
  2. Yes, but usually as a piss-take, and never if it were fairly important that I be understood.
  3. 8:55.

Canajun, like you. I say 5 to 9.

My American wife, born and raised in Silver Spring, MD., says 5 of 9. Meaning 8:55.

Still messes me up sometimes.

  1. Ohio now, most of life in Maryland
  1. Canadian in Tallahassee.
  2. No, I’d say it was five to nine or five after nine.
  3. If someone told me it was five of nine, I’d have to ask them what they meant.

I’ve never heard anyone say that, BTW.


“Five of nine” would be common usage here, just like “Quarter of nine.” Also “five to nine” or “quarter to nine” would be common.

It means 8:55, in the case of “five of nine”.

Seven of Nine, however, was uncommon hot.

a) Massachusetts.
b) I use “five of nine” as my primary way of expressing 8:55 (other than saying 8:55).
c) 8:55

  1. Northern California

  2. Not only have I never used the term, but I had never heard of the term before I opened this thread.

  3. N/A

1.) US; specifically, northern Illinois
2.) Not unless I’m referring to a Borg. ;). I have, however, heard other people use the phrase before, though it’s far from common around here.
3.) Were I to hear the phrase, I would automatically think the person was saying that it was 8:55.

  1. Northwest Ohio

  2. Five 'til Nine when I’m informal and Five of nine when I’m formal

  3. 8:55

Sheesh, I didn’t even hit submit, and the browser closed. As I was saying:

  1. Ohio/Maryland
  2. Yes. Also use five till nine, five before nine
  3. 8:55
  1. England
  2. No.
  3. n/a - I’ve heard it in the US but can never remember if it means “5 minutes added to the time stated” or “5 minutes before the time stated”.

a) originally from just outside Philadelphia, now in the DC-area
b) I probably would say “5 to 9” slightly more frequently than “5 of 9” but I would definitely say “5 of” (skipping the hour) in preference to “5 to.” If I were using “quarter” I would be most likely to say “quarter of 9” or “quarter of” but I’d also use “quarter to 9.” And you’ve left out “'til” which I will also sometimes use when it’s numbers (not when it’s “quarter”) - as in “5 'til 9.”
c) all of these constructions would mean 8:55 (except the quarter ones, obviously, which would mean 8:45)

Sorry (b) got so complicated – I was surprised it did, as I’ve never really thought about this before.

a) Philadelphia
b) yes
c) 8:55

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. Yes, frequently
  3. 8:55

a) Texas. Grew up in Louisiana.
b) I wouldn’t say “five of nine”, but I’ve heard it used. It always sounds odd and slightly archaic to me. I generally give absolute rather than relative time (i.e. I would say “eight fifty-five” instead), but would probably say “five 'til nine” if I wanted to use a relative expression.
c) 8:55

  1. Jersey
  2. Sometimes
  3. 8:55. I can’t comprehend someone thinking that would mean 9:05.
  1. Schenectady.
  2. I’ve used it, and have heard others use it all the time.
  3. 8:55. What else could it be?

a) Southern Ontario

b) No

c) I honestly have no idea what it means.

  1. Seattle
  2. No - and I never hear it either (or nearly never), but I have read it. (I’d use “'til” or “to” or just “55”, which is easier.) I think it’s an east coast thing
  3. 8:55