at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon

angelene001

Senior Member
Polish
Is there any rule which should come first: the hour or part of the day?

1) He was working at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

2) He was working yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock.
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I'd normally expect to hear "4 o'clock" before "afternoon" but there could be contexts in which "afternoon" comes first.
     

    angelene001

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I've read somewhere that we go from the most specific to the most general. But I'm not sure if I remember it correctly.
    According to this we should start, just like you say, with 4 o'clock.

    But I've seen both versions in course books and answer keys. So I suppose that neither 1) nor 2) would be seen as a mistake..
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, that's the normal way of saying it. I remember in German it's the opposite, general to specific, so I don't know what it is in Polish. But in English, specific to general, unless you're giving an unusual emphasis. (Perhaps if 4 o'clock is a surprising time to be still working.)
     

    angelene001

    Senior Member
    Polish
    In Polish it would be "yesterday afternoon at 4 o'clock".
    And that's the problem. When I want to translate it into English, I naturally choose 2).
    Fortunately, both versions are acceptable :)

    But it's good to know the underlying rule, especially if something works the opposite way to what you say in your mother tongue.
     
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