# Yet again, I need opinions from non-US native speakers of English.

How would you say 5:27?

a. five twenty-seven
b. twenty-seven past five

How would you say 3:42?

a. three forty-two
b. eighteen to four

If you would use one or the other depending on your mood, could you give an approximation of how often you would use one or the other, like 60/40, etc.

Thanks!

Mine would be both (a) answers…or more likely “nearly half past five” and “nearly quarter to four”.

I’d say five twenty seven, and three forty two.

However it’s different if the minutes is a multiple of five:

5:25 is twenty five past five, and

3:40 is twenty to four.

How would you say 5:27?

a. five twenty-seven
b. twenty-seven past five

c. I would say half-six. I’m not detailed enough to bother with 27 but approximate it to half. As a remark to half times, here in Norway we do not say half past a given hour, but will say as above.

How would you say 3:42?

a. three forty-two
b. eighteen to four

c. this time approximate it to nearest quarter, I would say quarter to four.

Pleasure to of service,

Kotick

5:27 - both (50% a, 50% b)

3:42 - both (75% a, 25% b)

a) to both questions as asked. But on the second question if it were in the 3:44 - 3:46 range I’d probably say “Quarter to 4.”

Ah, and upon posting I realise that I do the same as Struan: If the minutes are a multiple of five, then the time is always past (:05 to :30) or to (:35 to :55)

“Pleasure to __ of service,”

be (of course)
(be be be be be, bzzzzz)

K

If I would write them like that for some reason (timing on a lab experiment or a production line, and even there it often will get rounded), then it’s the first.

In most cases I’d round up to the nearest five, so they’d be half past five and twenty to four.

In my current job I bill by the quarter hour (well, by the hour, but we’re told to go to the quarter, the billing is for the whole month and those quarters do add up). So it would be half past five and quarter to four.

It’s actually got more to do with how much I really need to be exact than with what’s “the right way to read it”. Language exercises seem to be the only place where you get those funny hours!

Okay, I intentionally didn’t use multiples of fives so it would be more complicated and you guys are just rounding it off!

Here’s the issue: our textbooks (and so, in the eyes of my counterpart, god) say that for any time before the half hour, you should say “minutes past the hour”. Like, ten past six or twenty past nine, and that for after the half hour, you should say “minutes to the next hour” like twenty-five to ten or whatever.

Personally, I would say that a quarter to or past an hour sounds normal. Half past sounds a little old-fashioned to me, but would also be perfectly okay. OTOH, if I look at a clock and it says 3:40, I would say “three-forty” 100% of time. But we’re teaching our kids to say “twenty to four”. The alternate way isn’t even mentioned in the books, although it’s much closer to the way Bulgarians tell time (they would say “three and forty”.) My counterpart is always suspecting that I am trying to subvert our kids into teaching them American English (we really are supposed to be teaching them UK English) and I’m always trying to convince her that I am not and the books use weird, stilted English that no one would actually ever speak.

Let me add that although I wouldn’t say “twenty to four”, I would understand it and not find it particularly strange. But we’re teaching the kids to say stuff like “twenty-two to four”, which just sounds weird to me.

I was taught the way your counterpart thinks it should be taught. We promptly forgot about it, specially since not a single teacher ever put those weird hours in an exam.

Using the way that’s correct and easy for the students to remember, since it’s most similar to their native language, sounds like the best choice to me. But I’ve been told before that my notions about teaching are “not pedagogic” (mebbe not, I’m just an engineer, but they sure work).

And me. The usual construction would be “twenty-two minutes to four”, not that I’d use it. But that level of precision is rare in conversation.

Canadian from southern Ontario here. I would use a) and a) for both. I’m sure this is due to the influence of digital watches and such: we read the digits presented to us, rather than looking at things in contest of the whole hour as on an analogue watch.

I would also say ‘five o’clock’ for 5:00.

I would add ‘AM’ or ‘PM’ (pronouncing the names of the letters: ‘ay em’ or ‘pee em’) if needed to clarify.

I would say ‘quarter after five’ and ‘quarter to four’ for 5:15 and 3:45 respectively, but only if I was reading an analogue clock or watch. This would extend to ‘twenty to five’ and ‘twenty after five’ (in other words, a precision of five minutes), but not any more precise.

For 5:30, I would say ‘five thirty’. I don’t think I would ever say ‘half past five’, but my grandparents and parents used the expression. I would never say ‘half five’ because that is ambiguous and doesn’t specify whether it is before or after the hour of five.

In situations with a twenty-four-hour clock, such as railway timetables, I say ‘thirteen o’clock’, ‘seventeen fifteen’ and ‘nineteen forty-two’ for 13:00, 17:15 and 19:42 respectively. But I must add that that is not necessarily common usage here; I think a lot of people here still ‘translate’ 24-hour time after 13:00 to 12-hour time with an added ‘PM’.

(My grandparents were English, so they would have used expressions closer to those in your books, Kyla. I, however, am Canadian, and I don’t.

I think I wouldn’t usually use that way of saying things, but if I did, I would say, ‘twenty-two minutes to four’ and I would almost certainly be repeating the time with a greater emphasis on precision. Something like, “It was 3:38 (‘three thirty-eight’), in other words, twenty-two minutes to four.”

‘It works’ trumps pedagogical theory every time, in my book. But then, I’m just a technologist, not even an engineer.

I grew up in a non-digital watch world, so we’d almost invariably say “Twenty-seven past five” and “Eighteen to four”. These days, it’s a bit more 50/50, with bus and train signs in digital format, but most clocks I see day-by-day (and my own watch) still in the familiar style.

In the first example I’d say “twenty seven minutes past five”, regardless of whether it was an analogue or a digital watch/clock.

In the second example I’d probably (but not always) say “three forty two” if it was a digital watch/clock. If it was analogue I’d say “eighteen minutes to four”.

5:27 = Half past five
3:42 = Twenty to four

Precision has no place here UNLESS I’m using a phrase like “What the hell are you waking me for? Don’t you know it’s 3:42am?!”. Time gets it’s full billing when it’s very early.

I tend to mix and match when I’m speaking about the time, and I’m far more likely to use digital before the half hour. This leads to sentences like “The second bus leaves at five twenty-seven A.M., the first at eighteen to four.” I have no idea why I do this. I suppose there’s not a lot to choose between with “five twenty-seven” and “twenty-seven past five”, but “eighteen to four” is very different to “three forty-two”.

I also have a habit, when asked the time, of presuming the other person knows the hour and just wants to know the minutes. When asked “What’s the time?”, I’ll respond “Half past”. If the questioner says “Half past what?” I’ll say “Five”.

My parents taught me to say (using the hour from 6:00 to 7:00 as an example):
Six o’clock
Five past six
Ten past six
Quarter past six
Twenty past six
Five-and-twenty past six
Half past six
Five-and-twenty to seven
Twenty to seven
Quarter to seven
Ten to seven
Five to seven
Seven o’clock

All times were rounded to the nearest 5 minutes. And yes, I was really brought up to say “five-and-twenty”. But only when telling the time. When counting normally, it was “twenty-five” like everyone else. Was anyone else taught this?