About five o'clock

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Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I have a question about "About five o'clock" in the following sentences:

About five o'clock our procession of three cars reached the cemetery and stopped in a thick drizzle beside the gate—first a motor hearse, horribly black and wet, then Mr. Gatz and the minister and I in the limousine, and a little later four or five servants and the postman from West Egg, in Gatsby's station wagon, all wet to the skin. As we started through the gate into the cemetery I heard a car stop and then the sound of some one splashing after us over the soggy ground. I looked around. It was the man with owl-eyed glasses whom I had found marvelling over Gatsby's books in the library one night three months before.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Chapter 9

After Gatsby was shot and dead, his friend Nick attended his funeral with his father, Mr. Gatz. At the funeral, he found some other man also came.

In this part, I could not understand why the author said "about five o'clock." As far as I know, "o'clock" is used to indicate the precise time, and "about" is used when we indicate time approximately. So I could not see how the "o'clock" and "about" could be used in the same phrase, and what it means.

I would very much appreciate your help.
 
  • Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    So I could not see how the "o'clock" and "about" could be used in the same phrase, and what it means.
    I don't see a problem with using them together. It means "At approximately five o'clock". It could have been a few minutes before or after.

    Cross-posted, at about the same time as #2.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear heypresto and Barque,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    I had felt somewhat strange to use a precise expression and a vague one at the same time, because if so "o'clock" seemed to be redundant, but there was basically no problem in using the two things together.
    I really appreciate your help. :)
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Any other times, like 'half past two', 'twenty to four', twenty-five past six' etc are just as precise as 'five o'clock', but we can say 'about' about all of them.
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    because if so "o'clock" seemed to be redundant,
    Saying "about five o'clock" is no different in theory from "about 4.55". It's just that "o'clock" is used with the exact hour. And it needn't always be. You might sometimes hear "about five".
     
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