Chapter overview


Telling the time

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Telling the time

In a nutshell

The big hand of an analogue clock represents how many minutes have gone past the hour. The small hand represents which hour it is, and its angle shows how much of the hour has gone by. The thinnest hand shows how many seconds of the minute have gone by.

Analogue clocks

An analogue clock has 33 hands and a dial.

All hands move in the direction of the numbers from 11 to 1212 - clockwise. The following table shows each hand, and what it does:

The hour hand
The last hour which this hand has passed is the current hour.
The minute hand
Long, wide
The last minute which this hand has passed is the current minute.
The second hand
Long, thin
The line which this hand is pointing to is the current second of the minute.

On the dial, the features of the long lines and small lines with regards to the hands can be seen below:

Hour hand
Minute and second hand
This shows which hour of the day it currently is
Each long line represents 5 minutes of the hour, or 5 seconds of every minute.
This has no relevance for the hour hand
This shows the specific minute or second, up to 59 minutes or 59 seconds.

Telling the time from an analogue clock


Read the hour; this is the last long line the hour hand has passed
Read the minute; this is the current line (long or short) which the minute hand is pointing at
(If required) Read the second; this is the current line (long or short) which the second hand is pointing at

Note: Some clocks use Roman numerals instead of numbers to represent the times 1121 - 12, or XII\text{I } - \text{XII}.  These clocks can be read the same way, but require you to understand how to read Roman numerals.

Certain phrases are also used to describe the time. These can be seen from the table below:

Quarter past
1515​ minutes past
Half past
3030​ minutes past
Quarter to
4545​ minutes past / 1515​ minutes to

Typically for minutes between 00 and 3030 the time is described as ... minutes past, and for minutes between 3030 and 6060 the time is described as (60...)(60 - ...) minutes to.

Example 1

Write down the times shown from the following clocks:

Maths; Measurement; KS2 Year 3; Telling the time
Maths; Measurement; KS2 Year 3; Telling the time

The first clock shows a time of 33​ hours and 4545​ minutes, and so is a quarter to 4\underline{\text{a quarter to } 4}.

The second clock shows a time of 66​ hours and 3030​ minutes, and so is half past 6\underline{\text{half past } 6}​​.

Digital clocks

Digital clocks do not have a dial nor hands, and they only show numbers to represent the time. The time is represented as HH:MM:SS where each pair shows the current hour, minute or second.

Example 2

What is the time shown on the following digital clock: 08:45:33?

The clock shows a time of 8 hours and 45 minutes and 33 seconds\underline{8 \text{ hours and } 45 \text{ minutes and } 33 \text{ seconds}}.

On a 2424-hour clock, the hour varies between 00 and 2424 with hours between 00 and 1212representing the first half of the day, and hours between 1212 and 2424​ representing the later half of the day. 

Example 3

What is the time shown on the following digital clock: 18:25:59?

1812=618 -12 =6

Hence, the clock shows a time of 6 hours and 25 minutes and 59 seconds in the afternoon\underline{6 \text{ hours and } 25 \text{ minutes and } 59 \text{ seconds in the afternoon}}.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • Question: What is an example of time?

    Answer: Time is defined as the duration in which all things happen, or a precise instant that something happens. An example of time is breakfast at eight o'clock in the morning.

  • Question: What are the two main ways of showing the time?

    Answer: There are two different ways in which you can tell time. Try to understand the manner in which time is expressed based on the two types of clocks, digital and analogue.

  • Question: Why is it important to be able to tell time?

    Answer: Being able to tell the time can help you determine whether you're running late or whether you have plenty of time to spare. It can help you catch a train, bus, or plane on time, and allows you to know if you're going to make it to an important get-together early or late.



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