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What time is it?

Indonesian people asks the time whenever get busy.

Saking busy-nya“, they just answered in English but in Bahasa Indonesia way.

What will be your answer in English?

When it was 4:30 PM or setengah lima sore in the office, I’ve asked my friends “what time is it?” and these were the answers:

  • Four past half empat lewat setengah,
  • Four – thirty empat – tiga puluh,
  • Half five setengah lima,

Don’t laugh! This might be your answer, too… 😀

What is the answer?

There are 2 (two) ways in stating time in English:

  1. Say the hour, then the minute
  2. Say the minute, then past / to, then the hour.

The first way, just say ‘hour’ then its ‘minute’ only.


  • 4:16 four sixteen
  • 4:20 four twenty
  • 4:30 four thirty
  • 4:40 four forty
  • 4:45 four forty five
  • 4:57 four fifty seven

It is easy, isn’t it?

Wait a minute, I have a question! How to say “16:05”?

There is no 16 o’clock in English. English splits 12 hour clock become 2 (two) parts in a day which is known as:

  • A.M. (Ante Meridiem, the first 12 hour clock, early morning to noon or before midday), and
  • P.M. (Post Meridiem, the last 12 hour clock, afternoon to midnight or after midday).

We can say “4 o’clock in the afternoon” or “four P.M.”. Indonesian people knows 24 hour clock in writing, so if we want to say 1:00 P.M. it should be 13:00 in writing.

Then, I think it is uncommon to say “four five” in English. Four as the clock, and five as the minute. So, we have to use the second way.

The second way, say the minute, say “past” or “to”, and say the hour.


  • 4:16 sixteen (minutes) past four
  • 4:20 twenty (minutes) past four
  • 4:30 half past four
  • 4:40 twenty minutes to five
  • 4:45 quarter to five
  • 4:57 three minutes to five

How about 16:05? It should be “five (minutes) past four”.

Any questions?

When we should use “past” or “to”?

Okay, “past” is used like in Bahasa Indonesia lewat, and “to” is used like in Bahasa Indonesia kurang. Indonesian people often said 16:05 or five (minutes) past four as jam empat lewat lima (menit). In easy way, you can just reverse the structure, for example:

  • 16:05 jam empat lewat lima menit, become five minutes (lima menit) past (lewat) four (jam empat).
  • 16:10 empat lewat sepuluh, become ten (sepuluh) past (lewat) four (empat).
  • 16:15 empat lewat seperempat, become quarter (seperempat) past (lewat) four (empat).
  • 16:30 setengah lima or empat – tiga puluh, become half (setengah) past (lewat) four (empat).
  • 16:35 empat lewat tiga-lima, become thirty five (tiga-lima) past (lewat) four (empat).
  • 16:40 lima kurang dua puluh, become twenty minutes (dua puluh) to (kurang) five (lima).
  • 16:45 jam lima kurang seperempat, become quarter (seperempat) to (kurang) five (jam lima).
  • 16:55 jam lima kurang lima, become five minutes (lima) to (kurang) five (jam lima).

English usually using “past” to thirty five minutes, then using “to” from forty minutes. It is uncommon to say 16:35 as twenty five minutes to five, or 16:40 as forty past four.

Could we say 16:47 or 16:53 using second way?

Yes, you could. But it would be easier using the first way. Say 16:47 as four forty-seven than twenty-three minutes to five and 16:53 as four fifty-three than seven minutes to five. Any other non-five minutes round is commonly using the first way.

Was that clear?


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