This question is related to two others referring to "how to speak out loud 24-hour clock times".

It has been asked how do English-speaking countries that officially use the 24-hour clock system refer to times greater than noon, like for instance 13:00hs (1 PM), when in fact, in the very same UK, such situations happen daily, at Post Offices and Railway Stations.

So, since this situation actually happens daily in the UK, I was wondering how do Brits deal with it? Please bear in mind that there are many different possibilities, situations or cases of speech, that will not necessarily turn out in the same fashion. I will mention a few that come to my mind.

a) When telling someone that his train departs at 13:00.

I would guess: "Your train leaves at one." (it may be obvious that its one p.m.)

b) When quoting or going through a timetable for someone else (for any reason)

I would guess: "That train leaves at, let me see, fourteen, sixteen, twenty and twenty-two hours".

c) When the station speaker goes off announcing departure times.

I would guess: "The train departing at twenty-three twenty-two is delayed and will be departing at twenty-three thirty (hours?)".

I think that there are two basic ways of treating the information or the time-table, as raw data, or in a processed form. When you process it, I think you are in position of adapting and telling it the way you would find best, but when you read it "raw", like in cases where you have to read out many different times, or a full timetable, I guess that there is no point in going through all the burden of "converting" every single time to a 12-hour clock time, even when in UK, which officially uses a 12-hour clock.

I'm tempted to call to a UK Train Station to actually check on this, but maybe you can shed me some light into this matter? I think the same happens in US, with Railway Stations too and other public transportation systems as well?

closed as not a real question by JSBձոգչ, Matt E. Эллен, aedia λ, Mitch, MrHen Dec 7 '11 at 23:41

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  • The assumption you're making is that there is a single answer. Unless anyone has done some actual research on this, the best you'll get for parts a) and b) is a small sample of anecdotal data. – Peter Taylor Dec 5 '11 at 10:18
  • The honest answer? With difficulty. – Polynomial Dec 7 '11 at 6:48
  • possible duplicate of How should one say times aloud in 24-hour notation? – aedia λ Dec 7 '11 at 17:23
  • Train announcers will give use the 24 hour format. eg "The next train arriving at platform one is the fourteen twenty four service to London Paddington." Most people when reading timetables or telling each other about train times will use the more familiar 12 hour times. so in the previous example "I need to get the two twenty four train. If I miss that its the three fifteen train." In most cases it is obvious whether you are referring to AM or PM. If needed you might say "I need to be on the train at five past seven in the morning" or "the seven oh five AM train". – Chris Feb 9 '18 at 16:14

UK rail timetables use the 24-hour clock. A train leaving at, say, 1600 leaves at 'sixteen hundred'. Colloquially, however, we may very well say 4 o'clock. It will usually be obvious that it's in the afternoon and not the early hours of the morning.

  • What if you were to read a list of departure times like 07:00, 09:00, 13:00, 15:00, 23:00? Would you read it "the train leaves at seven hundreds, nine hundreds, thirteen hundreds, fifteen hundreds and twenty-three hundreds" or would you cut it down like "the train leaves at seven, nine, thirteen, fifteen and twenty-three" or maybe some other option? – Eduardo Dec 3 '11 at 23:42
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    @Eduardo: You’d be mostly likely to hear: “The train leaves at oh seven hundred, … twenty-three hundred.” – Brian Nixon Dec 4 '11 at 1:45
  • @Eduardo: As Brian said. – Barrie England Dec 4 '11 at 7:13
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    @Eduardo: Colloquially you may commonly hear: "The train leaves at seven, nine, one, three and eleven". Possibly also with "o'clock" or "am/pm" but you can tell from the context which are morning and afternoon. – Hugo Dec 4 '11 at 10:13
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    @Eduardo - the official station announcement will say "the eighteen thirty eight is delayed due to" but people reading it to themselves or to others will generally translate it to "6:38" or "20 to 7". – mgb Dec 4 '11 at 17:48

It wasn't very clear on the other questions: nobody ever says "fourteen hours" or "fourteen o'clock". "Fourteen hundred" is possible. And, of course, there is the legendary problem that "twenty-two eleven" sounds like "twenty to eleven" and is only half an hour away.


A) Official/military/government: 'Thirteen hundred'/'thirteen hundred hours'; 'O one-hundred/O one-hundred hours'. Colloquial/conversational/business: 'One o'clock'/'One p.m.'/'One o'clock p.m.'.

B) 'The trains leave on the hour, at five after, at 15 after, at half past, at fifteen 'til, at 55 after, etc.' Could also be, 'The train leaves every other hour on the one and on the seven,' meaning "At five past" and "at thirty-five past".

C) What you have is fine. "The train departing at is/'will be' delayed for . It will now be departing from _." (e.g., "The train departing at 1300 hours is delayed for 15 minutes. It will now be departing from 1315 hours." -or- "The train 1300 train is delayed for 15 minutes. It will be departing at 1315 hours."

When people use good grammar, they don't usually end their sentences with numbers. This is because when you speak scientifically, you should include units. "Hours" are units of time. People say 1300 hours, meaning 1:00 p.m.

Time can act as an adjective in this case. The 1300 train is the same as the train leaving at 1300 hours. Because this is an attributive adjective, if you want to use units you have to include a hyphen: "The 1300-hours train...".

  • 'Adverbial adjective'? I take it you mean 'attributive adjective'. – Barrie England Dec 4 '11 at 8:14
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    A and C are ok but I mostly disagree with B. It's usually "five past" rather than "five after", and "quarter to" rather than "15 'til". And I've never heard "on the one" or "on the seven" for "five past" or "25 to", but "on hour" and "on the half-hour" are quite common. – Hugo Dec 4 '11 at 10:07
  • @Hugo That's fine. You're welcome to edit. – Wolfpack'08 Dec 4 '11 at 11:25
  • I think the "1300-hour train" (as opposed to thirteen hundred hours) would be even more severely delayed than usual. – TimLymington Dec 4 '11 at 17:28
  • @TimLymington: Thank you a lot for your answer, but you are telling me to speak numbers and that's an ability I haven't yet developed :) – Eduardo Dec 5 '11 at 1:26

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