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Can I add a.m and p.m to the time? But I have to write time in phrases. So for example:

It's quarter to five p.m.

Is that right or not?

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    Just a personal opinion, but I find the juxtaposition of "colloquial" quarter to [hour] and "formal, official" p.m. quite jarring in the example as given. I'd much prefer either It's quarter to five in the afternoon or It's four forty-five p.m. (or go the whole hog with military time; It's sixteen forty-five). – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 15:59
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    I would say if you want to use 'quarter to five' you should write 'in the morning' in full. If you want to use A.M. or P.M. the you should revert to 'four fourty five A.M.' – Smock Mar 26 at 16:32
  • Mariya, you can click on the edit label under your question if you'd like to include additional examples you're not sure about. – userr2684291 Mar 26 at 16:48
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    @userr2684291 just fyi, you can put the word edit within square brackets to make it even easier for mariya. Like so: edit – Aethenosity Mar 26 at 17:19
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My sense, from my own experience, is that people usually use the informal "in the morning" when using the casual "quarter to three" in words, and the more formal, technical-sounding "a.m." when using the precise "2:45" in numbers. If you're only mentioning an hour, of course, then there's no difference when speaking aloud, and either might be used.

However, while I say "usually", I suspect that that is not by a significant margin. There's nothing weird or unnatural about "quarter to three a.m." or "2:45 in the morning". Using both about the same time in a single phrase will make you look/sound silly, though. Don't say "2:45 a.m. in the morning"1. "From 9:15 in the morning to quarter to five p.m." is perhaps idiosyncratic, and might draw odd looks in a formal context, but is in no way wrong.


1: There will likely be edge cases where it's appropriate to say that, but it will arise naturally from the surrounding text - it's likely that, in most analyses, they wouldn't actually be the same phrase. "I'm leaving at 7 a.m. in the morning" could be better rephrased to avoid the apparent redundancy, in the case where it means "I'm leaving at 7 a.m. tomorrow". However, if you parse the apparently-redundant sentence with both "at 7 a.m." and "in the morning" as separate adverbials of time, you can see that in the morning and a.m. aren't part of the same phrase.

  • I agree the "aptness" of including relatively formal a.m. / p.m. varies somewhat according to whether it's coupled with (again, relatively formal) two forty-five or with (relatively informal) quarter to three. I'm not sure if it would be possible to find statistical support in Google Books showing that usage skews in favour of what we both seem to think are the more "natural" combinations, but I certainly wouldn't rule that out. In which case arguably what we're saying would be a matter of "verifiable truth", rather than "personal opinions / stylistic preference". – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 17:33
  • @FumbleFingers Well, for me it's what my impression is, of what I've experienced. Utterly unverifiable, but also working with a lot of stuff that won't be on ngram. – SamBC Mar 26 at 17:41
  • Well, your later edit brings more attention to what I consider to be another relevant factor besides the "formal / informal clash". In some contexts, I can certainly see that in the morning and a.m. aren't part of the same phrase. – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 18:09
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From my initial comment, I personally find the juxtaposition of "colloquial" quarter to [hour] and "formal, official" p.m. quite jarring in the example as given. I'd much prefer either It's quarter to five in the afternoon or It's four forty-five p.m. (or go the whole hog with military time; It's sixteen forty-five).

But that's very much a personal opinion about style. As regards using both a.m. / p.m. (capitalised on not, with periods or not, according to stylistic preference) and in the morning / afternoon / evening, consider...

"at 7 am in the morning" - about 4510 written instances in Google Books

...where obviously there will be plenty more for the actual word seven, or for other times. I believe it's relevant that in many (but by no means all) those hits, in the morning will mean tomorrow morning. In which case it probably wouldn't even occur to most native speakers that there was any tautologous repetition at all (it simply clarifies the day of the specified time).

There's often also an element of (perfectly idiomatic / natural) emphasis in my example (either or both of a.m. and in the morning could be seen as implying [unusually] early. This isn't so likely with p.m. + in the afternoon, so you won't come across that collocation very often.

But the justification for "clarification / emphasis" certainly re-appears with...

"at 7 pm in the evening" - about 3960 hits in Google Books

Perhaps I should have switched to six p.m. there, to add weight to my point here. Suppose you hear one work colleague say to another, I'll see you at 6 p.m. in the evening. In context, it's extremely likely the speaker expects himself and/or the other person to return home after work before they meet again. Effectively, in the evening is an "additional clarification" element, used to distinguish "working afternoon" from "leisure time evening".


So as you should be able to see, there are contexts where it's absolutely fine to include both "time of day" elements. Arguably it's "clumsy" to do this unless you actually want either the nuance of "emphasis" OR the other associations (morning = early, evening = after work) involved.

Since it might be difficult for non-native speakers to reliably identify which contexts do justify the repetition, and it's undoubtedly true that there will be other more "neutral" contexts where it's noticeably "awkward" to include both, my general rule of thumb would be to avoid it. But if you think you have a context that seems to match the "valid" constructions I've referred to above, don't rule it out. And certainly don't feel you can justifiably criticise any native speaker who does it!

  • Oh wow! Two downvotes! This one could get interesting! – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 17:35
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    There seems to be a lot of helpful advice here, and, to your credit, you're not being dogmatic about anything. Count me among the upvoters. I'm curious about what the downvoters might have disagreed with. (One thing I will say, though, is that you overstate the number of hits on Google. Go to Page 2, and those 3960 hits dwindle down to 11. Still, this is very hard to gauge using Google, because there are twelve hours in a day that could all be used. This query is a good one.) – J.R. Mar 26 at 17:38
  • btw - does "asterisk" (the symbol I can't actually write here in a comment) actually work in Google Internet searches? I seem to remember it doesn't in Google Books, but does in NGrams. – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 18:01
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    You can escape an asterisk in comments by putting a backslash in front of it (\* = *). Yes, the asterisk works in Google Books, where it replaces any number of words, I believe. In the Google Books Ngram Viewer it replaces a single word. – userr2684291 Mar 26 at 18:21
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You can use either A.M. or in the morning, and P.M. or in the evening. It is incorrect to use both A.M. and in the morning in the same sentence.

In your case, you would be correct in saying It's a quarter to five P.M.

  • 1
    ...sorry, but on reflection, the downvote stands. It's often ugly and unnecessary tautology to include both "temporal clarifiers", but they can have different nuances, and there are contexts where it's perfectly okay to include both. Your "incorrect" is an inaccurate sweeping generalisation. – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 16:18
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    A.M. and P.M. refer to a period within a day. Adding a phrase like in the morning or in the afternooon after A.M. or P.M. is redundant, and thus incorrect. – medicine_man Mar 26 at 16:19
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    If I could downvote comments, I surely would! Where did you get the idea that redundancy is "incorrect" in English? It's extremely common (and natural, in many contexts). – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 16:20
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    Just because lots of people have used it in writing doesn't make it automatically correct. Look up "the dangerous of". That one occurs a lot, but it still isn't right. – Lorel C. Mar 26 at 16:23
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    Extremely common and natural do not equate to it being correct in the formal language. Everyone misuses phrases all the time in spoken/informal English, where issues like this are not a problem. However, formally, this phrase would be incorrect. – medicine_man Mar 26 at 16:29
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So I can use it. I really hope It's right because I wrote it on a test about time and there was a clock and I had to write the time down. And there was ,,in the morning" and ,,in the afternoon". So I wasn't sure if I should write a.m and p.m or not. But I wrote it because I though it would not be right to just write the time. I wrote a.m and p.m just because if I didn't add anything else you can't tell if it's in the morning or in the afternoon.

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Yes. No problem in that usage. Make sure both a.m. and p.m. are properly written in lowercase with periods.

I have found an example sentence from NY Times website:

Over the past two weeks, however, a group of hooligans have made a routine of partying on my roof at 3:30 a.m.

And here's another one from Slate, showing something more akin to your example:

No prisoner is allowed under any circumstances to leave his cell after half-past five p.m.

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    The punctuation of AM is not universally agreed upon, and largely depends on which style guide you subscribe to. – userr2684291 Mar 26 at 16:52
  • Lutfur Rahman - "properly written" for the UK Guardian is 1am, 6.30pm, full stop between hour and minute figures. No spacing, lower case, no "periods" in am or pm. Beware of assuming that a local convention (or what you are used to) is a universal rule. – Michael Harvey Mar 26 at 18:07
  • @MichaelHarvey: From The Guardian ...the school opened its doors at 7 am. That's just the first example I saw from a site-specific search (second, actually; the first was a user comment, not journalist's copy). But maybe that's just showing us why we used to call it The Grauniad :) There seem to be plenty of examples with both orthographies. – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 18:42
  • Yes, journalists do disregard their publication's style guide. You should take a look at some of the stuff in the Daily Express. – Michael Harvey Mar 26 at 18:55
  • @MichaelHarvey: I'll be seeing a journalist friend of mine in a couple of days (provincial newspaper, not the nationals), so if I remember, I'll ask him whether they advise on "preferred style" down to this level. FWIW though, my general impression is that over recent decades, BrE has moved more towards reduced punctuation than AmE, so I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out Guardian / London Times writers are told to use am, whereas The New York Times might be still telling people to use a.m. – FumbleFingers Mar 26 at 19:18

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