I don't know if this is a good question. But as far as I know, and as I do it, American English also say "after" other than "past" in expressing times.

For example, a quarter after six instead of, a quarter past six as in British English.

The other difference I know, so far, is that the British use dots to separate "hour" and "minute" in digital times like "08.35" while Americans use a colon e.g; "08:35".

So is what I know, so far, correct? Or are there any other differences that I don't know about?

  • 1
    As an American I use both past, for quarter past noon, and the DOT in my times. Its 20.43 right now central time... Or a quarter til 21.00
    – AthomSfere
    Sep 16, 2013 at 1:44
  • You mean you use "after" and "past"? So do Americans only use dot in times? Do you use colon as well? How about British?
    – Safira
    Sep 16, 2013 at 1:50
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    It is unconventional in America to use a 'dot' between the hour and minutes of a time. Americans typically use a colon. I, in fact, don't know of anyone in America other than @AthomSfere that uses a dot.
    – Jim
    Sep 16, 2013 at 1:59
  • 1
    No, No, what I'm saying is that you are correct most people in America use a colon. In my experience only AthomSfere uses a 'dot' in America. So if you are generalizing, you should assume: "In America they use a colon"
    – Jim
    Sep 16, 2013 at 2:17
  • 2
    I live in the UK and the usual separator is the colon - although the central dot, the space ( 12 45) and the non-space (1245) are also used. The dot is too confusable with the decimal separator - it's bad enough having to explain that say 'eleven hundred hours' is a misnomer. 9:35 and 10:25 would be 'twenty-five to / past ten', but 9:36 and 10:24 would be twenty-four minutes to / past ten'. Sep 16, 2013 at 12:56

4 Answers 4


American English most common speech usage examples using 6 o'clock:

  • 6:00 we would normally just say "Six". If we really want to point out the exact time we might say "Six on the dot".

  • 6:01-6:29 normally uses after. Past is fine here too but not used as much. Also if you knew the hour, then you would probably just say the time. Example - "It is 6:25" or if you know it is 6-something you say "25 after". The one anomaly is if you use "quarter" and "quarter past" is just as common or more as "quarter after".

  • 6:30 we say, "half past". Past is used almost exclusively. If you said "half after" it sounds a little weird but still OK. Example - "It is 6:30" or if you know it is 6-something you say "half past".

  • 6:31-6:59 would normally use till. After and past could be used and understood. They just normally aren't - "40 minutes after" isn't used much. Example - "It is 6:40" or if you know it is heading towards 7 then you would say "20 till".

Again you could say "20 till 7" or "quarter after 3" or whatever but if we are saying the whole time we just normally say it. So "10 minutes till 11" is usually just said "ten fifty".

As stated by some comments the word "to" is also said instead of "till". It may even be more commonly written. Using "to" would be very acceptable in speech but I feel the word "till" is more common in America.

  • 1
    I know you don't like citing sources, but could you at least tell us where you live? What your dialect is? Also, would you say half six for half past six? Just wondering, I've only heard that in Britain.
    – terdon
    Sep 16, 2013 at 3:57
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    @Mari-LouA - cleaned it up a little. Better? Sep 16, 2013 at 4:59
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    I think she meant that it would be nice to write out an entire example, like twenty five after 6. Do you really say after? Wouldn't you just say six twenty five? Same goes for till, I'd say _twenty to seven rather than 20 till seven. Not sure I've even heard till.
    – terdon
    Sep 16, 2013 at 5:08
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    @terdon - till is just a phonetically abbreviated until. It is pretty common because it can be used as a pseudo countdown. "Hey guys it is 20 till." "Hey we are leaving soon, it is 10 till." "5 till guys, remember we leave at 8 on the dot." Sep 16, 2013 at 6:17
  • 2
    I'm an American speaker and I don't recall ever hearing anyone say "40 minutes after" in the US. Also I have to agree with FumbleFingers. In my experience "We'll leave at twenty to eight" is much more frequent in the US than "twenty till eight". I would call "twenty till eight" quite rare. But there certainly are differences in dialect around the US and I suppose RyeBread grew up in a place where they say "till". I've just never been there :o)
    – adj7388
    Nov 25, 2013 at 22:42

For writing down the time I would use generally a colon. I am English and I don't think I know anyone who would write the time down with just a dot—that's new to me.

When saying the time i'd say for example "6" "quarter past 6" "10 past 6" "half 2" "20 to 5" "quarter to 9."


I've found Americans more often use "after", for example 15 after 6, while British use more often use "Past", for example 15 past 6.

  • 7
    No, British people do not normally say things like "15 past 6". If that happens at all, it will be very rare. In the UK, your example would be pronounced as a quarter past six or, six fifteen.
    – Tristan r
    Apr 28, 2014 at 12:03
  • 1
    And Americans would say A quarter after six or six fifteen, but not usually fifteen after six. Aug 16, 2018 at 12:44

I can only speak for American English, and my observations are strictly based on personal experience. So:

Telling time is undergoing a major change, due to the widespread use of digital clocks.

When looking at an analog clock (with a dial face, hour and minute hands), the use of "past" and "til" come naturally. Furthermore, the use of approximate time, usually to the nearest 5 minutes, is also convenient. So, for instance, an indicated time of 6:43 would probably be reported as "quarter to six" or "quarter til six". To some degree, these usages are maintained, especially in the older segment of the population. For many, though, it is simply easier and faster to read the time directly from the digital display, "Six forty three".

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