Learn English – How do they express the time, in American and British English


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?

Best Answer

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.