How to Tell Time in English: Vocabulary and Dialogues

Business executives discussing at conference table, man looking at watch, (focus on foreground)
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Use this role play to practice telling the time. Make sure you know how to use the twelve hour clock to speak about times in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. Use the preposition "at" to speak about specific times.

Key Vocabulary Related to Telling Time

  • Excuse me, could you tell me the time, please?
  • What time is it?
  • It's half past...
  • It's quarter past...
  • It's ten to...
  • It's quarter to...
  • It's twenty to
  • It's twenty past
  • It's ten forty five.
  • 1:00 — One o’clock
  • 2:00 — Two o’clock
  • 3:00 — Three o’clock
  • 4:00 — Four o’clock
  • 5:00 — Five o’clock
  • 6:00 — Six o’clock
  • 7:00 — Seven o’clock
  • 8:00 — Eight o’clock
  • 9:00 — Nine o’clock
  • 10:00 — Ten o’clock
  • 11:00 — Eleven o’clock
  • 12:00 — Twelve o’clock

Talking About the Time of Day

There are many ways to talk about the time of day in English without using an exact time. Here are some of those vocabulary words.

  • Dawn: Early morning before or just as the sun rises.
  • Sunrise: When the sun rises.
  • Sunset: When the sun sets.
  • Noon: Exactly 12 P.M.
  • Midnight: Exactly 12 A.M.
  • Midday: The stretch of time in the middle of the day, from approximately 11am to 1pm.
  • Afternoon: Literally, the hours afternoon, but more specifically from 1 to 4 P.M.
  • Early: The morning hours, approximately before 9 A.M.
  • Day/daytime
  • Twilight: The time just before the stars come out.
  • Dusk: Early evening, just before or as the sun is setting.
  • Early evening: From about 4:30 to 6 P.M.
  • Evening: The period of time after sunset but before night.
  • Late: The evening hours, approximately after 11 P.M.
  • Night/nighttime
  • o'clock
  • A.M.--Used with a 12 hour clock for talking about times before noon and after midnight.
  • P.M.--Used with a 12-hour clock for talking about times before midnight and after noon.

Practice Dialogue

Jane: Could you tell me the time, please?
Steve: Certainly. It's 3 P.M.
Jane: That late? I thought it was early afternoon still.
Steve: Time flies when you are busy. Did you enjoy your morning?
Jane: I did, but now I have to rush in order to get home before dusk.
Steve: Have a good evening. See you back here tomorrow bright and early!
Jane: Yes! I'll arrive by dawn or shortly thereafter.