Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1993 10:16:25 +0100


Subject: Re: Half Past the Hour

Charles M. Rosenberg, University of Notre Dame said:

I was born and raised in and near Chicago and went to college

near Philadelphia. To my ear three-thirty is the norm, though

I have heard half-past three as well.

Charles M. Rosenberg, University of Notre Dame

DMLance wrote:

As a former Texan (Nay -- once a Texan always a Texan), I assure you that

'half past' in various forms is not uncommon. I have echoes of my father

using it; he was born in sw Ark and lived in "Indian Territory" south of

Okie City from age 2 to age 15. And I use it regularly, even in Missouri,

with no indication that anyone thinks it's strange.


"Half past" is the term I learned when I learned English at school (in

Sweden), and also the overwhelmingly common one I've heard used by Brits. I

always assumed that "half past three" was the standard expression, "three

thirty" being an American (USian?) variant. That is, if you don't mean 3.30

sharp, as when answering a query like "When does your train leave, sir?"

"[at] three thirty".

I would use hafl past three almost exclusively, and nothing else.

This is not to say that the expressions cited on this list aren't usable or

correct. Of course they are, but I don't use them.

Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] writes:

`A quarter of' is `a quarter to/till' ie, `before,' the hour. `A quarter

of 7' is not `1 3/4,' as one misguided usage "expert" once insisted. Nor

is `a quarter to' `15 minutes toward the next hour,' as another one


This must be an Americanism. "Quarter to three" is the same as 1445 (or

0245) hrs. When in doubt, I always try to use the British forms. This may

be due to the fact that I'm not a native speaker (I hope that doesn't mean

I can't hvae opinions on ADS-L. Also, it may stem from the fact that I live

east of the Atlantic :-)

Dennis Baron continues:

The one I've always had trouble remembering was `half seven' -- is

that 6:30 or 7:30 (or is it really 3.5 after all)?

Dennis (that's d/E/nnis)


That's invariably 6:30 - I'll come to that (see below).

Robert Kelly kelly[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] wrote:

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I never heard any other expression for

the middle of the hour except half-past /h[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]p.p[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]st/ (where [AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] is digraph). Three

thirty was radio talk, we said half-past.

Good to see that at least some USians use "half past" ;-)

Some Britons I know pronounce

three thirty as "half four."


You're right, Robert - I've also heard this when I was traveling in

Scotland in 1987:

ScottishAccent on

- What's the time? /Wots D[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] tEim/ - It's half six [5.30] /hA:f siks/

ScottishAccent off

It sounded really nice to my ears, because this is the norm in Swedish,

Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, German and Finnish, and I thought English

didn't have that form. For example:

Swedish "halv tre", meaning 'half three', i e two-thirty. It's never used

in the sense 'three-thirty'. Similar variants in the other langs, except

Finnish, where it's translated: puoli kolme 'half three'.

Thus, "half three" and "half past three" are completely different

expressions, the difference between them being one hour.

Jean Le Du wrote:

As a complete outsider - being a Frenchman - I HAVE

discovered Twenty after three and twenty of three

in Stephen King's novel.What is the actual US norm?

Do twenty past and twenty to sound English to an American


Jean Le Du, Un. of Brest, France

At least, "twenty to" and "twenty of" sound awfully unBritish to me, i e I

assume they're transatlantic (i e USian) usages, until proven otherwise.

//Hans Vappula, Gothenburg Universities' Compunting Centre, G|teborg, Sweden


Hans Vappula * guchw[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] * hans.vappula[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] ([AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] = at sign)