How to Tell Someone What Time It Is

I know I’m not the only one to feel flustered and out of my depth when a stranger, or even someone I know, asks that most basic of questions: “What’s the time?” You have to be on your toes when that question is raised, because if you don’t tell the person the time that means you won’t even give them the time of day and therefore you clearly hate them and everything you’ve ever told them is a lie.

Here are some directions to help you steer clear of the faux pas of being chronologically tongue-tied and responsible for another human being’s severe mental anguish.


  1. Own a watch. Sundials, grandfather clocks or cuckoo clocks, whilst aesthetically appealing, can be cumbersome to carry around. Luckily, many vendors, both on and off the internet, now sell timepieces small enough to transport on your wrists. Such a revolutionary think should only cost a few thousand dollars.
  2. Learn how to tell time. Regularly attend some sort of schooling institution up until the point they teach you how to do this.  The crucial time learning years occur between the ages of 36 and 360 months (approx.). Once you have reached the point at which you learn how to tell time, you may drop out, as you no longer have use for such institution.
  3. Wait for someone to ask you the time. Stand around in areas without clocks to make this happen.
  4. Turn your watch toward your face. Make sure the watch’s face (not your face — much of this terminology can be confusing) is on the part of your wrist with the hair so that you can turn it toward your face without awkwardness or looking like a weirdo.
  5. Read the time. Look at where the ‘hands’ point (the watch’s hands, not yours–again, confusing).  Based on what you learned, you should be able to decipher the time. If using a digital timepiece, check which numbers the fluorescent lines are depicting. Remember to prepare and use a number recognition ‘cheat sheet’ if you need to!
  6. Vocalize your findings. Time is usually expressed in a confusing variety of ways, of which there are simply too many to list here. Here are a few examples of phrases you may use:
  • “10 past”: It is past 10.
  • “Five o’clock somewhere”: You are at a Jimmy Buffett concert.
  • “A hair past a freckle”: Specifically refers to 3:03 p.m.
  • “Time you got a watch”: Chiefly used to spite those too poor to afford a watch or friends who regularly talk about how much they hate watches.
  • “Hammer time”: You will know this when you see it.
  • “It’s eleven thirty, Diet Coke break”: Describes the customary time in which everyone in the world stops for a delicious, refreshing Diet Coke.
  • “It’s business, it’s business time [sung]” – Used to attract a potential mate.
    It is customary to follow up each of the above phrases with a snort-laugh, the universal indicator of your jovial sense of humour and absence of other over-riding social skills.


  • If you tend to freeze up any time anyone talks to you, take time to learn the maneuver where you simply show your watch to the person who asks you the time. Not only will the questioner know the time, they will also respect the fact that you let them figure things out for themselves.
  • Owning a watch is thoroughly recommended as a means of avoiding being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Use of maps is also highly recommended for this purpose.
  • Many people wear watches on their left wrists. Others on their right. You should wear one or more watches on both wrists so you can fit in with any watch clique.