Date and time notation in the United Kingdom

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In the United Kingdom, the date is usually written using the DMY format, for example 21 October 2010, or if abbreviated, a stroke is used to separate numbers, for example 21/10/10 or 21/10/2010. However, the month-first form is also found. The time can either be written using 12-hour, for example 4.10 pm, or 24-hour notation, for example 16:10; exact styles vary. However, 24-hour time is rarely spoken except within industries such as rail and bus transport, the police or the military.



Dates are usually written in "day month year" (DMY) order. This order is used in both the traditional all-numeric date (for example "31/12/99") and the expanded form (for example "31 December 1999").[1] Writing the day of the month as an ordinal number (for example "31st December") is also very common – and since the advent of automatic correction in word processors, the ordinal indicator has been lifted into superscript (for example "31st December") in typed documents, to match the handwritten style. Single-digit numbers for day or month may have a preceding nought (for example "09/09/2015"), but omitting it (for example "9/9/2015") is more usual in handwritten documents. The "" format is also used, such that 31 July 2017 could be written as "31.07.17".[2]

When saying the date, it is usually pronounced using "the", then the ordinal number of the day first, then the preposition "of", then the month (for example "the 31st of December"). The month-first form (for example "December the 3rd") was widespread until the mid twentieth-century, and remains the most common format for newspapers across the United Kingdom. The month-first format is still spoken, perhaps more commonly when not including a year in the sentence, but is now less frequently used.


The "day month year" order is also used in modern Welsh (for example "20 Mai 1999", "20fed Mai 1999", "20fed Mai 1999"). The "month day year" order (for example "Mai 20, 1999") was previously more common, it not being unusual to see a Welsh "month day year" date next to an English "day month year" date on a bilingual plaque from the latter half of the 20th century.

"20 Mai 1999" is read as yr ugeinfed o Fai mil naw naw naw with the usual soft mutation of M to F after O (of). 1999 can be read as either mil naw naw naw (thousand nine nine nine) or un naw naw naw (one nine nine nine).


Weeks are generally referred to by the date on which they start, with Monday often treated as the first day of the week, for example "the week commencing 5 March". ISO 8601 week numbers are found in diaries and are used in business.

British Standard[edit]

ISO 8601 has been adopted as British Standard BS ISO 8601:2004, and is popular in specialist use (for example, use-by dates on medical products)[3] and computer applications (including database systems, communication protocols and web pages). The appearance of such big-endian dates is increasing, especially with computer-generated forms and invoices, and Internet-accessible content in an age of globalisation.



Both the 12-hour and 24-hour notations are used in the United Kingdom. The 12-hour notation is still widely used in ordinary life – in spoken language, written communication, and displays. The 24-hour notation is used in timetables and in some computer and other technical applications; computers running Microsoft Windows with UK regional settings display time in 24-hour notation by default. The 24-hour notation is used more often than in the North America – especially for bus, train and airline timetables – but not as commonly as in much of the non-English-speaking world.

It is rare to use the 24-hour format when speaking; for example, 21:30 would be spoken as "half past nine" rather than "twenty-one thirty". However, the spoken 24-hour format is used in airport and railway station announcements: "We regret to inform that the fifteen hundred [15:00] service from Nottingham is running approximately 10 minutes late"; "The next train arriving at Platform four is the twenty-fifteen [20:15] service to London Euston".

To separate different parts of time, either a full point or a colon can be used. For 12-hour time, the point format (for example "1.45 pm") is in common usage and has been recommended by some style guides, including the academic manual published by Oxford University Press under various titles,[4] as well as the internal house style book for the University of Oxford [5], that of The Guardian[1][6] and The Times newspapers.[7] The colon format (as in "1:45 pm") is also recognised and is common in digital devices and applications;[4] it is preferred by some British institutions, including University College London.[8] A more descriptive 2014 revision of the academic Oxford guide, New Hart's Rules 2nd ed., concedes that the colon format "is often seen in British usage too", and that either style "is acceptable if applied consistently."[9]

The time-of-day abbreviations are handled in various conflicting styles, including "a.m." and "p.m." with a space between the time and the abbreviation ("1.45 p.m." – preferred by New Hart's Rules, which – however – also recognises the "am" and "pm" styles);[4][9] "am" and "pm" with a space ("1.45 pm" – recognised as an alternative usage by Oxford);[10] and the same without a space ("1.45pm" – primarily found in news writing).[6][11][12] The unspaced style is not usually found in the academic or general-audience style guides, only the news journalism ones.

In 24-hour time, a colon is internationally standard (as in "13:45"). However, some British news publishers favour "13.45" format instead, such as The Guardian.[13] Some stick with the colon, including the Evening Standard[citation needed] and the BBC.[14] Oxford recognises both styles.[9] The am and pm abbreviations (in any form) are not used with 24-hour time.

In British English, the expression "half [hour]" is used colloquially to denote 30 minutes past the hour. For example, "half ten" means 10:30 (without specifying morning or night). This contrasts with the Dutch, German, Hungarian, Czech, Baltic, and Scandinavian languages, where the same type of expression denotes 30 minutes before the hour.

The following table shows times written in some common approaches to 12-hour and 24-hour notation, and how each time is typically spoken;

12-hour 24-hour Spoken
4.30 pm 16:30 half past four
10.35 pm 22:35 twenty-five to eleven
12.00 am 00:00 midnight
12.00 pm 12:00 noon
11.15 am 11:15 quarter past eleven
9.18 am 09:18 eighteen minutes past nine
5.38 pm 17:38 twenty-two minutes to six


The Welsh language usage of the 12-hour and 24-hour clocks is similar to that of UK English above.[citation needed] However, the 24-hour notation has only a written, not a spoken form. For example, written 9:00 and 21:00 (or 09.00, etc.) are said (naw o'r gloch, literally 'nine of the bell'). Minutes are always either wedi ('after') or i ('to') the hour, for example 21:18 deunaw (munud) wedi naw (eighteen (minutes) past nine) and 21:42 deunaw (munud) i ddeg ('eighteen (minutes) to ten'). Phrases such as y bore ('(of) the morning'), y prynhawn ('(of) the afternoon') and yr hwyr ('(of) the evening') are used to distinguish times in 12-hour notation, much like Latin am and pm, which are also in common use, for example 9.00yb (09:00) as opposed to 9.00yh (21:00).


  1. ^ a b Marsh, David; Hodsdon, Amelia. Guardian Style. Guardian Books. pp. 87, 297. ISBN 9780852652220. 
  2. ^ Marsh, David; Hodsdon, Amelia (2010). Guardian style (3rd ed. ed.). London: Guardian Books. p. 87. ISBN 9780852652220. 
  3. ^ International Standard ISO 15223: Medical devices – Symbols to be used with medical device labels, labeling and information to be supplied
  4. ^ a b c Ritter, Robert M., ed. (2003). "7.9: Time of day". Oxford Style Manual. Oxford University Press. p. 178.  This material has also been published, with different pagination, as The Oxford Guide to Style and New Hart's Rules [1st ed.].
  5. ^ Public Affairs Directorate (2016). "University of Oxford style guide" (PDF). University of Oxford. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "times". Guardian and Observer style guide. Guardian Media Group. 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 
  7. ^ The printed version of The Times consistently uses a full point as the time separator. The Times Online Style Guide (last produced in 2011 and cited elsewhere herein) used a point in 24-hour time. It does not directly address 12-hour time. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  8. ^ Information Services Division (March 2015). "UCL Style" (PDF). University College London. Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c Waddingham, Anne, ed. (2014). "11.3: Times of day". New Hart's Rules: The Oxford Style Guide (2nd ed.). Oxford U. Pr. pp. 194–195. 
  10. ^ Burchfield, R. W.; Fowler, H. W., eds. (2004). "a.m.". Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd ed.). Oxford U. Pr. pp. 240, 376. 
  11. ^ "times". The Times Online Style Guide. News UK. 2011. Archived from the original on 4 August 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2017.  Did not address 12-hour time, only 24-hour time; printed newspaper consistently uses a full point.
  12. ^ "Time". The Economist Style Guide. Economist Group. 2017. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 
  13. ^ Marsh, David; Hodsdon, Amelia (2010). Guardian style (3rd ed. ed.). London: Guardian Books. p. 297. ISBN 9780852652220. 
  14. ^ BBC Academy. "Time". BBC News Style guide. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 July 2017. 

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