I tried a small experiment. I posted a post on Facebook at exactly: 21:01 and waited to see how many hours ago it will say. When it was 22:50 it still said that my post was posted 1 hour ago.

Though some days back on this forum some people told me that when something started at 21:01 and it is 22:50 that I should say it started 2 hours ago.

So whom should I trust now?

All social networks like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube etc. use the system where it would say 1 hour ago even if it was 119 minutes already, so meaning they will never say it was 2 hours ago unless at least 120 minutes passed.

This was the way I used to express 1 hour ago as well. However, since I heard the answers from many other people I feel unsure about it right now...

I am talking about casual speech with friends etc. In such scenario. What would you say? 1 or 2 hours ago? Is Facebook/YouTube/Instagram wrong or?

  • if we decide to agree on the theory that if it is more than 1 hour and 40 minutes it is a good idea to round to 2 hours ago.

So what time span would you imagine if something happened let say 10:10, now it is 11:50.

If somebody said to me that something happened 2 hours ago and I looked on time saying 11:50 I would image that it happened some time between. (9:30-9:50)

That is why it feels so weird for me to say 2 hours ago thought it has not been more two hours yet.

I dont know why but more logical for me it feels to say 1 hour ago though it can already be more than 100 minutes and still just say that it happened an hour ago when talking with friends, teachers, whoever in casual speech unless it is something super important i would say exactly hours and minutes.

How do you say it in your life? How do you express time in such situations? Do you express time the same way as Facebook or?

I know that some of you may think this is some kind of joke, unfortunately it is not and I am going crazy and depressed without knowing system for this... It has been already 2 months and I still feel overwhelmed with this ideas and questions... I cannot help myself, please help me, please.

Thanks for your help.

  • If I understand your question, it's really about differences in time rounding rules used by different web sites rather than a question about English. If I've misunderstood, could you clarify the question?
    – fixer1234
    Feb 20, 2017 at 22:38
  • well, i recently got totally lost in time expressions, and i do not know how to round it up... Should I still say 1 hour ago while it is not full 2 hours? Or should I say 2 hours when it is around 1 hour and 40 minutes ago?
    – Peter
    Feb 20, 2017 at 22:42
  • People don't always talk the same way that computers count.
    – J.R.
    Mar 1, 2017 at 23:51

2 Answers 2


Computer systems like Stack Exchange or Facebook are stupid and are (generally) programmed to always round down to full hour increments regardless of the proximity to the subsequent hour.

As such, it's necessary to ascertain the actual time the post was made if you really want to know how long ago it is.

In actual usage, no human would say that something one hour and fifty minutes ago happened "one hour ago". We are smart and know that one hour and fifty minutes is nearly two hours so we either round up to "two hours" or we say "almost two hours ago".

Generally, at the very least, we go in half-hour increments. So, something that happened an hour and thirty minutes ago is "an hour and a half ago". We distinguish events that didn't quite meet that time frame by using "less/more than" or "about" or other words that note that the time is imprecise.

In practice, people may be as precise as rounding to every ten minutes... so if something happened one hour and 42 minutes ago, they might say "about an hour and forty minutes ago" they might also go to the quarter hour "about an hour and three quarters ago" or to the full hour, "almost two hours ago". All of them are valid. I attest that it would be considered rather unusual to say "one hour ago" in this case.

  • If I was waiting for you to come pick me up while I sat on a park bench on a cold day, and you said, "I'll be there in about an hour," chances are you would find me a bit grouchy if you didn't show up for an hour and 59 minutes, and downright irate if you tried to insist that you were "on time" because two hours had not yet elapsed. +1
    – J.R.
    Mar 1, 2017 at 23:58

Facebook, like Stack Exchange, has its own set of rules. It makes sense after a while, but not always to a newer person.

In my opinion, a time frame needs only to be specific when it must be specific... a police report, taxes, a law court, or a financial report, science, measurement -- those sorts of things.

So, if I say I ate an hour ago, it might technically be 1 or just less than 2 hours ago. I am not hungry. I need to be precise to be at work, and perhaps to leave it, but even my boss does not expect me to say that it took 36 minutes to do the task, she will accept half an hour or 40 minutes.

I do not know why time is so precise in your original language, but it just is not always a precise measurement in our culture,

  • Okay, so you would say 1 hour ago when it is already 100 or 110 minutes or even 115 minutes ago? just like facebook uses it? Or you would round up to two when it is e,g, 100 or 110 minutes or even 115 minutes ago ? Please I need to know this.
    – Peter
    Feb 20, 2017 at 23:15
  • it totally depends. I saw it an hour ago, could mean exactly an hour or more. If I am exaggerating, it could be 2 hours or 10 minutes ago. "Did you hear that gossip?" "Oh yeah, an hour ago." Perhaps I want the person asking to think I knew first. Sure that might make me an idiot... People only care when it matters.
    – WRX
    Feb 21, 2017 at 0:16
  • yes but how more? My friends keep telling me that in case that something started 21:05 and now is 20:50 they would say two hours ago. I would actually say 1 hour ago though it can be almost two hours but yet it is still just one hour + some minutes. (45) is that okay or wrong? What is more often used? 1 or 2 in such case? Thanks
    – Peter
    Feb 21, 2017 at 0:26
  • sorry Peter, it is an individual choice. I actually tend to accuracy, but many don't. There is no recipe. I think if you round to the nearest half hour, you will satisfy everyone except a boss, or a person waiting for you, or a legal situation. This is not really about English.
    – WRX
    Feb 21, 2017 at 1:10

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