When we speak about time, we often say like one-twenty one. Is it common to write time like this, especially to teach primary students to write time like this ?

  • 1
    I doubt it's common to write it like this. If you say one-twenty one that is twenty one past one then you mean 1:21am/pm. I didn't notice time beine written in an hours-minutes format. – SovereignSun Sep 26 '17 at 7:31
  • Should I say twenty one minutes past one or just twenty one past one ? – HC Ma Sep 27 '17 at 4:51

It is very rare to write one twenty-one to refer to time, and if I saw it written this way I might not even realise the speaker was talking about time. For this reason students would not be taught to write time like this. The only case for writing the time out in words is if you are writing speech, and even then this would be rare.

It is usual to use numbers in this way though. You can write 1:21 as a short way of noting down the time. This is easily recognisable as time.

Note: It is important to include am or pm when writing the time. In most English-speaking countries it is becoming common to use 24-hour time, for example:

01:21 instead of 1:21 am

13:21 instead of 1:21 pm

However it is a good idea to include "am" in all cases where it might be ambiguous, so

01:21 am

  • So should we be teaching little kids, twenty one minutes past one instead ? – HC Ma Sep 27 '17 at 4:52
  • Also, we can write "am" instead of "a.m." ? – HC Ma Sep 27 '17 at 5:01
  • @HCMa Both am and a.m. are correct – SovereignSun Sep 27 '17 at 5:58
  • If they are learning to write English, then no, teach them to write 1:21. If they are learning English speech (or writing down what they need to remember to say) then yes, teach them "twenty-one minutes past one". – Ivan Sep 27 '17 at 18:26
  • "a.m." is an abbreviation for the Latin ante meridiem (before noon). Traditionally it would have periods as it is just the first letter of the word. The old rule is to use a period in abbreviations except if the abbreviation ends in the same letter as the full word (for example, "Dr" for "Doctor"). However this rule has relaxed in modern times and as @SovereignSun says, both are now considered correct. – Ivan Sep 27 '17 at 18:29

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