I'm a non-native speaker. In school, I was taught that the proper way of telling times in English is X o' clock.

In NAE, would it be common to omit o' clock and just say something like:

It's eleven

in an informal context? Are there other commonly used ways to tell the time?

  • Yes, just the raw number is perfectly fine. If it's not something-o'clock, you can also leave the hour implied, as in "It's about 10 after" (that is, 11:10) or "It's quarter to" (quarter to 11 = 10:45) if you trust that your listener is not so completely unaware of the time that they don't even know what hour it is. – Hellion Jan 27 '16 at 18:19
  • To add to what Hellion said, "a quarter till" is also used in the US. In the UK it is almost always "a quarter of." BTW @Hellion you should make your comment an answer. – TomMcW Jan 27 '16 at 18:37
  • @Tom: I'm not sure I've ever heard a quarter of [six, seven o'clock, etc] from a BrE speaker. But it's certainly used by American authors in Google Books - the first two examples I found being these from Tracie Peterson and Mercedes Lackey. BrE is almost always a quarter to six. – FumbleFingers Jan 27 '16 at 18:54
  • FumbleFingers you could be right. It's not used often in my region (Midwest US) but I've definitely heard it used. It may be a different AmE dialect. Can't say why i associated it with BrE. The way I say it is "a quarter two" so the schwa can be taken as to or till, but if i leave off the number it's definitely "a quarter till." – TomMcW Jan 27 '16 at 19:24
  • This is very much a matter of your local culture. My grandmother and aunt (her daughter) used an unintelligible (to an 8-year-old) mixture of "half past", "ten of", "a quarter of", etc. (All with no hour specified, and "of" meant "before".) I tend to prefer the raw numbers. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '16 at 19:53

You can omit all kinds of things.

3:00 is three

3:15 is three fifteen

2:45 is quarter of if the context is "Is it 3?" "No, it's quarter of."

3:30 is half past three or half past in context, but never half to/of four

3:05 is five after three or five after in context

2:55 is five of three or five of in context, or two fifty five

3:01 is three oh one

And, as a general but often violated convention:

  1. am and pm aren't used in any context when there's a "normal" assumption Examples: "My flight leave at 3" (normal), or "My flight leaves at 3am" (exception, or emphasis)
  2. am is often in the morning and pm is often in the afternoon or evening. Examples: "My flight is at 3 in the afternoon", or "My flight is at three in the morning".
  3. 3:00 EST/EDT is three eastern, and the distinction between standard and daylight time is so bungled that people often trip over it.
  4. As noted above, of can be replaced with till and to throughout.
  • 1
    As several people noted in comments to the question, 'of' can be replaced by till or to. "It's a quarter to four." – mkennedy Jan 27 '16 at 20:53
  • @mkennedy Good point... I added that when I fixed the formatting. – jimm101 Jan 27 '16 at 20:55

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