time - clock times and periods of the day

time - clock times and periods of the day
This entry deals with clock times and periods of the day, and prepositions and adverbs used to indicate time. For information on referring to days and longer periods of time, see entry at ↑ Days and dates. For information on time clauses, see entry at ↑ Subordinate clauses.
clock times
When you want to know the time at the moment you are speaking, you say `What time is it?' or `What's the time?'

`What time is it?' —-`Three minutes past five.'

`What's the time now?' —-`Twenty past.'

When asking about the time of an event, you usually use `when'.

`When did you come?' —-`Just after lunch.'

You can also use `what time'.

`What time did you get back to London?' —-`Ten o'clock.'

`What time do they shut?' —-`Half past five.'

When you tell someone the time, you say `It's...'.

It's ten to eleven now. You'd better be off.

The table opposite shows different ways of referring to times.
Note the following points:
• The twenty-four hour clock is used on some digital clocks and on timetables. In this system, five o'clock in the afternoon, for example, is expressed as 17.00.
• You can use `o'clock' only when saying exact hours, not times between hours. For example, you can say `five o'clock', but you do not say `ten past five o'clock' or `a quarter past five o'clock'.

Come round at five o'clock.

I must leave by eight o'clock.

Note that when using `o'clock', people usually write the number as a word (for example `five'), not a figure (`5').
You do not have to use `o'clock' when referring to an exact hour. People often just use a number.

I used to get up every morning at six.

• When saying times between hours, you can use `past' and `to'. You use `past' and a number when referring to a time thirty minutes or less after a particular hour. You use `to' and a number when referring to a time less than thirty minutes before a particular hour.

It's twenty past seven.

He returned to the house at half past four.

He got to the station at five to eleven.

Note that you do not normally use the word `minutes' in these expressions.
Speakers of American English often use `after' instead of `past', and `of' instead of `to'.

It was twenty after eight.

At a quarter of eight, he called Mrs Curry.

• You only use the word `minutes' when you are talking about times between sets of five minutes, or when you want to show that you are being accurate and precise.

It was twenty-four minutes past ten.

We left Grosvenor Crescent at five minutes to ten.

• If it is clear what hour you are talking about, you do not need to add the hour after `past' or `to'.

`What time is it?' —-`It's eighteen minutes past.'

It's quarter past.

`What time's break?' —-`Twenty-five to.'

• You can also express a time by saying the hour first and then the number of minutes past the hour. For example, you can say 7.35 as `seven thirty-five'. Note that if the number of minutes is less than 10, many people say `0' as `oh' before the number of minutes. For example, 7.05 can be said as `seven oh five' or `seven five'.
Note that you put a full stop after the hour when writing a time like this. Some people, especially Americans, use a colon instead.

At 6.30 each morning, the partners meet to review the situation.

The door closes at 11.15.

By 3:34 p.m. the first thread had been removed and labelled.

• You can make it clear when a time occurs, if necessary, by adding a prepositional phrase. Note that you say `in the morning', `in the afternoon', and `in the evening', but you say `at night', not `in the night'.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon.

They worked from seven in the morning until five at night.

See sections on exact times in entries at ↑ afternoon; ↑ evening; ↑ morning, and night.
You can also add `a.m.' to indicate a time between midnight and midday, or `p.m.' to indicate a time between midday and midnight. These abbreviations are not generally used in conversation.

The doors will be opened at 10 a.m.

We will be arriving back in London at 10.30 p.m.

You do not use `a.m.' or `p.m.' with `o'clock'.
prepositions indicating time
The commonest preposition used to indicate the time when something happens is `at'.

The taxi arrived at 7.30.

They'd arranged to leave at four o'clock in Welch's car.

I'll be back at four.

Other prepositions are used in the following ways to indicate when something happens:
• If something happens `after' a particular time, it happens during the period that follows that time.

She complained that Hamilton was a very quiet place with little to do after ten at night.

• If something happens `before' a particular time, it happens earlier than that time.

I was woken before six by the rain hammering against my bedroom window.

• If something happens `by' a particular time, it happens at or before that time.

I have to get back to town by four o'clock.

• If something happens `until' a particular time, it stops at that time. `Till' is often used instead of `until' in conversation.

I work until three.

I didn't get home till five.

• If something has been happening `since' a particular time, it started at that time and it is still happening.

He had been up since 4 a.m.

For information on other uses of these words, see separate entries at each word.
approximate times
You can indicate that a time is approximate by using `about' or `around' in front of the time.

At about four o'clock in the morning, we were ambushed.

The device, which exploded at around midnight on Wednesday, severely damaged the fourth-floor bar.

`At' is sometimes left out.

He left about ten o'clock.

In conversation, people sometimes indicate an approximate time by adding `-ish' to the time.

Shall I ring you about nine-ish?

You can say that something happens `just after' or `just before' a particular time. You can also use `shortly after' or `shortly before'.

We drove into Jerusalem just after nine o'clock.

He had come home just before six o'clock and lain down for a nap.

Shortly after nine, her husband appeared.

When saying what the time is or was, you can also use `just gone'.

It was just gone half past twelve.

periods of the day
The main periods of the day are:
morning, afternoon, evening, night
You can use the prepositions `in' or `on' with words referring to periods of the day. You can also use `last', `next', `this', `tomorrow', and `yesterday' in front of these words to form adverbials.

I'll ring the agent in the morning.

On Saturday morning all flights were cancelled to and from Glasgow.

I spoke to him this morning.

He is going to fly to Amiens tomorrow morning.

For detailed information on how to use these words and which prepositions to use with them, see entry at each word. See also entries at ↑ last - lastly; ↑ next; andthis - that.
There are also several words which refer to the short period when the sun rises or sets:
dawn, daybreak, first light, sunrise, dusk, nightfall, sunset, twilight
You use `at' with these words when indicating that something happens during the period they refer to.

At dawn we landed for refuelling in Tunisia.

Draw the curtains at sunset.

adverbs indicating time
The adverbs and adverbial expressions in the two lists below are used to indicate that something happened in the past. Note that all these adverbials can be put after the first auxiliary in a verb group.
The following adverbials can be used with past tenses and with the present perfect:
in the past, just, lately, previously, recently

It wasn't all that successful as a deterrent in the past.

Her husband had recently died in an accident.

He's had a tough time lately.

The following adverbials can be used with past tenses but not normally with the present perfect:
at one time, earlier, earlier on, formerly, once, originally, sometime, then

The cardboard folder had been blue originally but now the colour had faded to a light grey.

The world was different then.

`Before' is not used with the present perfect when simply indicating that a situation existed in the past. However, it is used with the present perfect to indicate that this is not the first time that something has happened.

I'm sure I've read that before.

The tenses used with `already' are different in American English and British English. See entry at ↑ already.
You use the following adverbials when referring to the future:
afterwards, at once, before long, eventually, immediately, in a minute, in a moment, in future, in the future, later, later on, one day, one of these days, shortly, some day, sometime, soon, sooner or later, within minutes, within the hour

We'll be free soon.

I'll remember in a minute.

In future when you visit us you must let us know in advance.

These adverbials are usually put at the end or beginning of the clause.
`Momentarily' is used when referring to the future in American English, but not in British English. See entry at ↑ momentarily.
You use the following adverbials to contrast the present with the past or the future, or to indicate that you are talking about a temporary situation in the present:
at the moment, at present, currently, just now, now, nowadays, presently, right now, these days

Biology is their great passion at the moment.

Well, we must be going now.

These adverbials are usually put at the end or beginning of the clause.
Note that `today' is used, mainly in newspapers and broadcasting, to refer to the present time in history as well as to the day on which you are speaking.

...the kind of open society which most of us in the Western world enjoy today.

See also entries at ↑ now and ↑ presently.
Note that `already' is used when referring to a present situation, as well as when referring to the past.

I'm already late.

See entry at ↑ already.
times as modifiers
Clock times and periods of the day can be used as modifiers.

Every morning he would set off right after the eight o'clock news.

Castle was usually able to catch the six thirty-five train from Euston.

But now the sun was already dispersing the morning mists.

Note that people often refer to a train or bus by the time it leaves a particular place. They talk, for example, about `the six-eighteen', meaning `the train that leaves at six-eighteen'.

We caught the eight-five.

Possessive forms of periods of the day can also be used as modifiers, when talking about a particular day.

It was Jim Griffiths, who knew nothing of the morning's happenings.

Note that they are also used when saying how long an activity lasts.

...the turpentine they had used to get paint off themselves after an afternoon's work on the house.

times as qualifiers
You can use time adverbials as qualifiers to specify events or periods of time.

I'm afraid the meeting this afternoon tired me badly.

No admissions are permitted in the hour before closing time.


Useful english dictionary. 2012.

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