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Is "two to two" a correct way to say "13:58" or "01:58" for time?

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    That format is commonly used, and the person will typically understand it in response to a request for the time, especially if they know the approximate time for context. I could see it, though, being the premise for a comedy routine: two people asking a question at the same time. One asks what time it is, the other asks the score of the game. And the answer is "two to two". – fixer1234 Feb 24 '17 at 6:48
  • I'd say It's almost/nearly two." Or, "It's two minutes to/of/before two." It just sounds better and if I heard "2 to 2", I'd add an "Toooooooot!" because it sounds like a train whistle. – WRX Feb 24 '17 at 13:34
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So there's a few thoughts I have about this. I'll address them separately.

  1. In general this format is fine. It is understandable and idiomatic, but is it the best way to convey an answer?

  2. "Two to two" is the same sound three times in a row. An alternative to "to" here, would be "until", commonly abbreviated in casual speech as "'til". "Two 'til two" makes it slightly more understandable (to me at least, this could be a regional preference in the SE USA) without having to think about it. Additionally, adding the unit to the sentence as in "two minutes 'til two", while technically unnecessary, increases the comprehension as well.

  3. Oftentimes, I will find myself limiting the specificity of such a "X til Y" statement to increments of approximately 5 minutes, and shifting to a MORE specific conveyance for minutes fewer than 5. This is because oftentimes, when people are asking the time, they have somewhere to be or something to do at a specific time. These specific times are most often on the hour or half-hour, and sometimes on the quarter-hour. Limiting specificity to increments of 5 minutes is useful while also being easy to understand quickly. For example:

    • "What time is it?" "It's about ten til six." - approximately 10 mins until 6; approximate answer is fine, because approximation this far out is usually fine.
    • "What time is it?" "It's five fifty eight." - Specifically 2 minutes until 6; specificity is preferred because we're approaching the hour mark.

Much of this is largely preference and is context sensitive, but there are many ways to tweak your time conveyance in speech to assist with specificity or understandability, and knowing how is useful.

  • Good points, especially with rewordings like "It's 1:58" or "It's just about 2." However, I wouldn't say "two 'til two" — just "two minutes 'til two" if anything. But I'd strongly prefer "to" in either case. – Luke Sawczak Jun 16 '17 at 17:25
  • @LukeSawczak Preference for "til" might be a southern thing. Neither is wrong, they're just alternatives. I hope I adequately conveyed that in my answer. – Nathan Young Jun 16 '17 at 17:27
  • Ah, okay. A mention of possible regionalism would clear that up. – Luke Sawczak Jun 16 '17 at 17:28
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    @LukeSawczak Added. – Nathan Young Jun 16 '17 at 17:37
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It is not entirely incorrect, but saying it is two minutes to two would be a better way to get your point across!

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I would say "two to two" sounds perfectly fine if someone asks you what time it is.

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