Date and time representation by country
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Differences can exist in:
- The calendar that is used.
- The order in which the year, month and day are represented.
- How weeks are identified.
- Whether written months are identified by name, by number (1-12), or by Roman numeral (I-XII).
- Whether the 24-hour clock, 12-hour clock or 6-hour clock is used.
- The punctuation used to separate elements in all-numeric dates and times.
International standard ISO 8601 (Representation of dates and times) defines unambiguous written all-numeric big-endian formats for dates, such as 1999-12-31 for 31 December 1999, and time, such as 23:59:58 for 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 58 seconds.
These standards notations have been adopted by many countries as a national standard, e.g., BS EN 28601 in the UK and similarly in other EU countries, ANSI INCITS 30-1997 (R2008), and FIPS PUB 4-2 in the United States (FIPS PUB 4-2 withdrawn in United States 2008-09-02). They are, in particular, increasingly widely used in computer applications, since the most to least significant digit order provides a simple method to order and sort time readings.
Most common usage
In terms of dates, most countries use the "day month year" format. In terms of people the big-endian form is also very common, since that is used in East Asia, and Iran.
The 24-hour clock enjoys broad everyday usage in most countries outside North America, Australia, India and the Philippines, at least when time is written or displayed. In some regions, for example most German, French and Romanian speakers, use the 24-hour clock today even when speaking casually, while in other countries the 12-hour clock is used more often in spoken form.
In other English-speaking regions, particularly former colonies of the United Kingdom, the 12-hour clock and 24-hour are used interchangeably in formal communications.
Most people in "24-hour countries" are so used to both systems that they have no problem switching between the two, perceiving "three o'clock" and "15:00" simply as synonyms. When speaking, a person may often pronounce time in 12-hour notation, even when reading a 24-hour display. It is also common that a person uses the 24-hour clock in spoken language when referring to an exact point in time ("The train leaves at fourteen forty-five …"), while using some variant of the 12-hour notation to refer vaguely to a time ("… so I will be back tonight some time after five.").
In Catalan, the hour is divided into quarters and half-quarters, spoken of relative to the next hour, which are used as the base of telling the time. In German, Spanish, and Hungarian the hour is divided into quarters and halves, spoken of relative to the next hour.
In many Germanic languages the half hour is referred to the next hour ("half to nine" rather than "half past eight"). In colloquial language, this causes a bias between English and German diction: In colloquial English, "half past eight" (for 8:30) is often reduced to "half eight", while in German "halb acht" is inevitably 7:30. For the quarters, in German there is the choice between "viertel nach sieben" or "viertel acht" for "a quarter past seven", and "viertel vor acht" or "dreiviertel acht" for "a quarter to eight". In French language, of course a Roman one, the quarters are related like in English: "sept heures et quart", "sept heures et demie", "huit heures moins le quart".
- Calendar date
- Common Locale Data Repository, a database that covers national date and time notations
- ISO 8601, international standard date and time notation
- Date format by country