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I was talking to my friend the other day about the airport bus timings, I was supposed to say

Buses are due at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 etc. (pattern like this the whole day between say 5 am to 11 pm)

Is there any specific term or way to describe the pattern?

6 Answers 6

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You could say the buses are due every hour on the hour from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.


This is a set phrase, so you should memorize it as a single vocabulary item. That said, you can break it into two pieces to understand it better:

  • every hour means "each hour";
  • on the hour means "at the beginning of the hour". In other words, this refers to a time ending with o'clock or :00.

When you put these two together, you get a phrase meaning "at the beginning of each hour".

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    this is the most concise way I can think of. Another option would be "every hour at the top of the hour"
    – Kevin
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 18:50
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    Depending on where you are (New Zealand for example), you can get away with just "Buses come on the hour.", but the phrase given is guaranteed to be correctly understood.
    – David Hall
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 20:23
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    @DavidHall That works in the U.S. too.
    – Daniel
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 13:57
  • @Mistu4u I've added an explanation of my own. Does that seem acceptable to you?
    – user230
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 13:03
  • @snailboat, Yeah, now it seems, what I call perfectly understandable :)
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 14:07
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snailboat's answer is very good, but if you are specifically looking for a specific single-word term to describe the "every hour on the hour" pattern, the word you want is hourly.

e.g.,

Buses arrive hourly from 5am to 11pm.

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    hourly makes it clear that the buses depart once per hour. It doesn't make it clear that the bus departs at zero minutes past that hour. For instance, "the train from London to Birmingham will be arriving on Platform 7. It runs hourly between 7:24 AM and 10:24 PM".
    – Matt
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 15:54
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    I agree with Matt; hourly describes "every hour," but not necessarily "on the hour."
    – J.R.
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 16:47
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    I feel though that the times you give as the range let you know when they start and then you can simply count each hour after the starting point. In Matt's example, his use of 7:24 lets me know that is when the first bus arrives, and therefore each bus afterwards will also arrive on the :24 since it's hourly. Using hourly is not as explicit as every hour on the hour, however, when combined with a start time it should express the same meaning.
    – Frank B
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 20:51
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I would say "buses arrive every top of the hour".

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    I'd probably reword that as "at the top of every hour".
    – Adam V
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 19:36
  • Does anybody actually say "at the top of" an hour? I have never heard that.
    – Ry-
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 23:23
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    @rynah In the U.S., I've heard it used mostly in television and radio: "And coming up at the top of the hour, we'll be hosting an interview with Mr. Smith about his new budget proposal..."
    – apsillers
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 14:04
  • @apsillers: Now that you mention it, I do too. :) It sounds a bit awkward for buses, though.
    – Ry-
    Commented May 18, 2013 at 0:04
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Let's focus on the context of the example.

Try "Buses go on the hour between 5am and 11pm."

Why did I pick "go"? Because that's when it leaves. "Go" is perfect because every non-native speaker will understand it (airport context), and it has a convenient and accurate double meaning. "Arrive" could be confusing because someone might think the bus arrives at the destination at that time.

About other answers:

  • Buses aren't normally "due", in conversation or formal texts. They "run", "arrive" or just "come" (or, in England, should come! ;) ) and they often "go" or "leave". I believe various spoken and written language usage corpii will back me up here.
  • As an English native, and teacher, I've never heard "at the top of every hour".
  • "every full hour" is confusing, "hourly" isn't specific enough, we're stuck with "on the hour" even if it's not so intuitive. My second pick was "each hour" because it suggests more than "once per hour", but there's something unnatural about it...
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  • In the U.S., I hear "top of the hour" a lot on talk radio. "on the hour" certainly works.
    – TecBrat
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 4:15
  • Only use go if you want to sound non native. Run is a better verb, or depart, or leave.
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 21:45
  • Agree, I like "leave", for the same reason as "go". Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 9:12
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I think there is not a single-word term which describes the succession of exact time like 1, 2, 3 o'clock, etc. However, we do have a couple of phrases of common knowledge in this context, which are as follows:

  • On the hour. The phrase is indicative of both every hour and exact time as mentioned above. So when we say "trains leave for London on the hour", it specifies not only every hour but also the exactness of time; that is 1, 2, 3 o'clock, etc.
  • Every hour on the hour is also correct. Even if we drop every hour, it will give the same required sense. In fact, the words "every hour" are emphatic here.
  • At the top of the hour. I don't think this phrase fits in this context. Sometimes, we hear on TV that we'll have a news update at the top of the hour. What does it mean? It means that we'll have a news update at the start of the next hour of time. It does not mean every next hour. In addition, this phrase is not much in use.
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I would use every full hour.

There are some hits in the net:

I'm no native speaker, it may be a German 'false friend'. It would be fine if somebody could confirm the term is right.

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    I don't know that I've heard "every full hour".
    – Adam V
    Commented May 16, 2013 at 19:35
  • It may be an ESL thing. In Polish it’s “every full hour” too: “o każdej pełnej godzinie”.
    – kinokijuf
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 6:04
  • This would sound odd in the USA.
    – Andy
    Commented Sep 23, 2015 at 21:46

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