Half (time) - English/Germanic

Alxmrphi

Senior Member
UK English
We were going a little bit OT in another thread and I thought I'd look for a clarification here. As you probably all know in languages like German / North Germanic when you say (the equivalent of) half 12, it means 11:30, while in English it means 12:30.

From the languages I checked... Icelandic, German, Dutch, Swedish this idea of half means cutting into the previous hour for the time, again so like half four is 03:30, and in English 04:30.

If this Germanic (non-English) way is how English used to be, given that it seems to be a historical trait, then where did its development come from? Is there any documented evidence in older forms of English that it ever used to be this way? Was it a language such as Norman (or even Central) French, or any Romance language that possibly introduced this change? Was it a natural development?

Quite often I've had conversations about this with people, but I've never been able to say why English changed (if it did, which I presume it did).
Any information on this would be appreciated :D

Thanks
Alx
 
  • Meat

    New Member
    English-USA-NJ
    Do people say half four? If one of my students said that, I'd say they were wrong. Or, it's wrong at least in my dialect of English. Certainly something I've never heard before. Of course, there's no problem with half past four, but I assume that's not what you mean.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Do people say half four? If one of my students said that, I'd say they were wrong. Or, it's wrong at least in my dialect of English. Certainly something I've never heard before. Of course, there's no problem with half past four, but I assume that's not what you mean.

    That's one of the biggest shocks I've had at WR!!
    Half four is one of the most normal things to say over here, well, half + (any) hour. It's something I could (almost) confidently say that every British person says (or at least is surrounded by). It is exactly the same as the version with past.
     

    Montesacro

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    From the languages I checked... Icelandic, German, Dutch, Swedish this idea of half means cutting into the previous hour for the time, again so like half four is 03:30, and in English 04:30.

    If this Germanic (non-English) way is how English used to be, given that it seems to be a historical trait, then where did its development come from? Is there any documented evidence in older forms of English that it ever used to be this way? Was it a language such as Norman (or even Central) French, or any Romance language that possibly introduced this change? Was it a natural development?

    Well, Alex, as you surely know Romance languages use the construction "four (hours) and half" to mean 04:30

    Italian: sono le quattro e mezza
    French: il est quatre heures et demie
    Spanish: son las cuatro y media

    But I don't know if English took this particular usage you are talking about from old French.
    I personally think it is unlikely; as far as I know Americans don't say "half four", so maybe it is a relatively recent development that is present only in British English.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yeah I know America has the hour:thirty preference (i.e. four-thirty)

    I don't think it's a recent development, similar constructions are in all the other Germanic languages showing (unless there were parallel developments in +12 languages) that this usage is at least 1,500 years old, like in Icelandic: hálf sex, Swedish: halv sex, German: halb sechs, English: half six etc.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    This is only British usage (maybe also Australian, or like forms of English). It is certainly very foreign to American ears--bizarre sounding actually. The first time I heard it from some English people, I misunderstood--as I know German, and confused something like 2.30 for 3.30.
    I wonder if this development in British English would have taken place after the US became independent. It seems to me that some time-telling wording that is very based on using clocks and watches would have taken place when these devices became common in society. I'm not really sure when most people started having them, but I'm sure that in medieval society they would have been rare. Therefore, since the times when Germanic languages were more or less "one" was about 2,000 years ago, time telling language would not have really been shared.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Wow, I am flabbergasted that it sounds bizzare, absolutely dumbfounded.
    I just thought it was something we both understood about each other's language and had a preference not to use (because we each had our own ways).

    Even reading previous threads (2) (3) (4), it's the Americans that are shocked and the Brits pointing it out (as absolute standard through the UK and Ireland), very interesting.
     
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    Montesacro

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    I don't think it's a recent development, similar constructions are in all the other Germanic languages showing (unless there were parallel developments in +12 languages) that this usage is at least 1,500 years old, like in Icelandic: hálf sex, Swedish: halv sex, German: halb sechs, English: half six etc.

    Yes, but only in English half six means 06:30.

    Perhaps at an earlier stage half six meant 05:30, just like in all other Germanic languages.
    Later the construction fell out of use, only to resurface recently with the current different meaning.
    But these are speculations... sorry, it's not of much help.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yes, but only in English half sex means 06:30.

    I know :p
    That's why I first posted this question, to find out why.

    Perhaps at an earlier stage (old English) half sex meant 05:30, just like in all other Germanic languages.

    Later the construction fell out of use, only to resurface recently with the current different meaning.
    But these are speculations... sorry, it's not of much help
    It's ok, you're having the same musings as me, that's why I asked if there was anyone that knew of any literary evidence that pointed to an earlier usage of times so we could see if it was like the other Germanic languages or if it resembled English (at least in Britain) today.

    P.s. half sex in English wouldn't refer to time at all, well maybe it would (i.e. short amount of, haha).
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    I would imagine that the English "half six" has something to do with "half past six"--that it's a kind of shortening of the phrase.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Yeah I know America has the hour:thirty preference (i.e. four-thirty)

    I don't think it's a recent development, similar constructions are in all the other Germanic languages showing (unless there were parallel developments in +12 languages) that this usage is at least 1,500 years old, like in Icelandic: hálf sex, Swedish: halv sex, German: halb sechs, English: half six etc.
    Are you sure it is that old? I was under the impression, the notation
    Viertel sechs (quarter six) = 5:15
    Halb sechs (half six) = 5:30
    Drei Viertel sechs (three quarters six) = 5:45
    came up with chiming clocks where one chime represented XX:15, two chimes XX:30, three chimes XX:45 and four chimes the full hour. Do you have sources attesting it really is that much older?

    Concerning the British notation half five = 5:30: Isn't this much more likely an abbreviation of half past five than a revival of an older form with a changed meaning?
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Are you sure it is that old?
    Absolutely not!
    Most of what is in this thread are questions and musings I'm saying out loud, hoping someone has any actual proof or interesting ideas.
    I have not tried to proof any point so far in this thread as if it is true. If it seems I have, then I assure you that's not the case.

    Concerning the British notation half five = 5:30: Isn't this much more likely an abbreviation of half past five than a revival of an older form with a changedmeaning?
    That's what I'm asking! :p
    Now I see that that is probable, but yesterday when I was focusing on the identical system being an hour earlier in other languages, so having a system of (see below), I just wondered what the reason was:

    Icelandic: hálf sex = 05:30
    Swedish: halv sex = 05:30
    German: halb sechs = 05:30
    English: half six = 06:30

    Wouldn't any naturally inquisitive mind at least for a moment wonder what happened?
    Is it that much of a dumb question to ask? :eek:

    The days were split up and sundials have been found from (I am going on bad memory here) around 800AD, so the idea of an hour, and telling the time, doesn't seem so immediately near to us in the past. So all that happened was English, unlike its Germanic neighbours never had this construction, and always opted for past-hour, then American became established, taking over that idea and in Britain we just dropped the past, so by chance we have similar constructions to the rest of Germanic languages that functions in a different way?
     
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    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Meat said:
    Do people say half four? If one of my students said that, I'd say they were wrong. Or, it's wrong at least in my dialect of English. Certainly something I've never heard before. Of course, there's no problem with half past four, but I assume that's not what you mean.


    Same in Australian English, we only ever say "half past <hour>".

    Just out of curiousity Alxmrphi, how do they say six o'clock (or 6:05 for instance) in the other Germanic languages? Is it something like "seventh hour"? Because it seems from the examples you gave, what they're actually saying (or rather meaning) is "quarter way into the 7th hour" or "half way into the 7th hour" or "three-quarters into the 7th hour"
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Just out of curiousity Alxmrphi, how do they say six o'clock (or 6:05 for instance) in the other Germanic languages? Is it something like "seventh hour"? Because it seems from the examples you gave, what they're actually saying (or rather meaning) is "quarter way into the 7th hour" or "half way into the 7th hour" or "three-quarters into the 7th hour"
    The only other Ger. language I can talk on behalf of is Icelandic, which can represent 06:00 as:

    Klukkan er sex (The clock is six)
    Klukkan er fimm mínútur yfir sex (The clock is five minutes over/past six)

    The "seventh hour" thing you mentioned, is a way of saying that something happened within an hour, it's not specific, so:

    Á sjöunda tímanum í kvöld (The seventh hour)
    - This means 18:01-18:59, it's within an hour, not a specific time.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    This is only British usage (maybe also Australian, or like forms of English). It is certainly very foreign to American ears--bizarre sounding actually. The first time I heard it from some English people, I misunderstood--as I know German, and confused something like 2.30 for 3.30.
    I wonder if this development in British English would have taken place after the US became independent. It seems to me that some time-telling wording that is very based on using clocks and watches would have taken place when these devices became common in society. I'm not really sure when most people started having them, but I'm sure that in medieval society they would have been rare. Therefore, since the times when Germanic languages were more or less "one" was about 2,000 years ago, time telling language would not have really been shared.
    When I began learning (British) English half a century ago, I was taught to say "it's half past four" or "it's four thirty", never "it's half four".
    Do you teach foreigners the latter now, British English teachers?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I first noticed half six rather than half past six in BE in the late 80s/early 90s. It is definitely a colloquialism and I'd bet the Queen wouldn't use it.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I first noticed half six rather than half past six in BE in the late 80s/early 90s. It is definitely a colloquialism and I'd bet the Queen wouldn't use it.

    Maybe that's changing then because it certainly doesn't feel like a colloquialism and I would have no problem using it in the most formal of circumstances. Maybe others (esp. older native Brits) might disagree, but that's natural if anyone's ever looked at what people used to complain about 1/200 years ago, and then gets accepted to become perfectly standard, and is now what (anyone in) the Royal family would say.

    Oh well, I think I found my answer, or as close as I'm going to get to it.
    Thanks guys for all your input. :thumbsup:
     

    jmx

    Senior Member
    Spain / Spanish
    ... the notation
    Viertel sechs (quarter six) = 5:15
    Halb sechs (half six) = 5:30
    Drei Viertel sechs (three quarters six) = 5:45
    came up with chiming clocks where one chime represented XX:15, two chimes XX:30, three chimes XX:45 and four chimes the full hour.
    That's almost exactly the way you tell the time in modern Catalan. The literal translations of what you say in Catalan would be "one quarter of six" (5:15), "two quarters of six" (5:30), "three quarters of six" (5:45).

    In regional Spanish you can also say "the half for the six" (5:30), but there's no equivalent for quarters. Maybe in poorer regions the bell only chimed every half an hour?
     

    OBrasilo

    Senior Member
    Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese
    It might be interesting to note, that in Slovenian, we have such expressions as well. "Pol desetih" (half of ten) is 9:30. So I'd say this way traces back to very ancient times. That, or a mass calquing occurred among different languages. ;)
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I tried to find out when people started to tell the time by half and quarter hours. I didn't find any clear evidence. But we can safely assume it didn't start before the introduction of the modern hours which go from midnight to midday and are subdivided into 60 minutes. This started with the first clocks in the 14th century and was standard by the 15th century. The Romans divided the day in 12 hours from dawn to dusk subdivided into 10 minutes and the night into four watches. In the Middle Ages, the night was also subdivided into 12 hours from dusk to dawn. Obviously, the lengths of night and day hours depended on the season. I don't think people used any subdivisions of hours at that time. That started only with the modern hour/minute system in the 14th century.

    Of course there were equal length hours and subdivisions for astronomical purposes at least since the days of Ptolemy but those were not used in ordinary life.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    Thank you Berndf, just as I suspected, clocks don't go back beyond the late Middle Ages, so these expressions about half hours, quarter hours, and amounts of minutes, should pretty much be things that came about as commonly used expressions after the 14th century. Also they are very cultural, so I don't see how there would be anything specifically germanic or romance or whatever about it. Rather, and especially if they are a calque, they show I kind of European (or beyond?) cultural framework.
    By the way, talking about halves is common in Slavic, Germanic, and Romance languages:

    English: Two-thirty (as an American I'd say it like that) =
    German: Halb Drei
    Polish: Wpól do trzeciej
    Spanish: Dos y media

    German, Polish, Spanish all occupy the word "half"

    PS At least American English uses the term "half" even less than these other languages. If anything it is "bucking" the European trend and AVOIDING the word half.
     

    jazyk

    Senior Member
    Brazílie, portugalština
    It might be interesting to note, that in Slovenian, we have such expressions as well. "Pol desetih" (half of ten) is 9:30. So I'd say this way traces back to very ancient times. That, or a mass calquing occurred among different languages. ;)
    The same thing in Czech (půl desáté) and Slovak (pol desiatej).
     

    Eroi Del Mare

    Banned
    Italiano
    Questo sistema di "contare" le ore mi suona molto familiare.

    Mi ricorda tantissimo quello dei banditori medievali ( non sono se il vocabolo esatto sia questo).

    Praticamente erano quei tizi che giravano per le strade dicendo.

    "è l'una di notte ....e tutto va bene"
    "un quarto dopo l'una ....e tutto va bene"
    "mezz'ora (vedi giu') .....e tutto va bene"
    "un quarto alle due....e tutto va bene"

    Ora io non ricordo esattamente come "contavano" le ore questi "banditori".
    Puo' darsi che da qualche parte si usasse di piu' dire mezz'ora alle (halfway to...) due,e da qualche altre parte si usasse di piu' dire mezz'ora dopo (half past....) l una.Cosi in qualche luogo è rimasto il concetto di halfway to... ,da qualche altra è rimasto il concetto di half past....

    Lo sai no? Anche in italiano c'e' qualcosa di simile ,un quarto alle cinque e cinque meno un quarto.

    E' solo la prima cosa che mi e' passata in testa leggendo la discussione,quindi potrebbe essere completamente sbagliate,ma se ti serve un idea...(a proposito qua c'e' un orologio che segna prima i quarti e poi le ore...ma).

    Mi sia consentito di scrivere in italiano a quest'ora di notte.....e tutto va bene.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Ma a che sistema ti riferivi? Il sistema germanico oppure quello che hanno detto la le persone nei ultimi post? Non ne sono sicuro.
    Ahhhhh la mente è completamente bloccata in questo momento, non mi ricordo neanche come si dice l'ora in italiano.
    Questo thread mi ha rovinato le abilità linguistiche per parlare dell'ora! :eek:
     

    Eroi Del Mare

    Banned
    Italiano
    It is only the first thing that i thought reading the discussion (* it could be also a great bullshit,"ma mi sembrava troppo familiare") .I don t know if in England or in Germany there was something similar to banditori ( * this word could be wrong),but if you need some ideas...
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I wonder if anyone could anwer my question from the earlier post: do the British teachers teach their foreign students to say half ten, meaning 10.30?
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    koniecswiata said:
    Thank you Berndf, just as I suspected, clocks don't go back beyond the late Middle Ages...

    Perhaps not in Europe, in the Islamic world though they certainly go way back beyond that, as did terminology for quarters and halves of hours.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Perhaps not in Europe, in the Islamic world though they certainly go way back beyond that, as did terminology for quarters and halves of hours.
    Words for fractions of an hour existed already in antiquity. The issue here is, if, in common speech, you would specify the the time of the day more precisely than by saying the hour. I don't think this ever was customary before clocks emerged.
     

    origumi

    Senior Member
    Hebrew
    I don't think this ever was customary before clocks emerged.
    It is in Talmudic Hebrew. For example חצי שש וחצי שבע חמה עומדת בראש = half six and half seven the sun stands at top (of sky). The hours counting goes from sunrise to sunset, thus the 6th hour is noon, half six and half seven are like the German notation: half of the 6th hour (5:30) through half of the 7th hour (6:30) = midday plus/minus half an hour.
     

    Welshie

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I wonder if anyone could anwer my question from the earlier post: do the British teachers teach their foreign students to say half ten, meaning 10.30?

    I doubt it. "Half ten" is a colloquialism, as has already been pointed out.. It is just for when you feel too lazy to say "Half past ten".
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I doubt it. "Half ten" is a colloquialism, as has already been pointed out.. It is just for when you feel too lazy to say "Half past ten".
    Yes, it was, but the younger generation dooes not perceive it (see the earlier post from Alxmrphi). For them it is standard language.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Yes, it was, but the younger generation dooes not perceive it (see the earlier post from Alxmrphi). For them it is standard language.
    Yeah, I am actually qualified to teach English abroad to adult students (though I haven't done any teaching yet, I decided to do a degree and re-take the examination next year as part of it, because it's an optional to do this with a BA in Linguistics). Anyway, if I was planning a lesson on telling the time, I'm sure naturally with emphasis on past / to I would (subconsciously) start saying that, but I'm sure when pointing to the time I would not think twice about pointing to 05:30 and asking them to repeat "Half five".

    As you say, for me it's not colloquial at all, it's completely interchangeable with any other version.
    If there were Germanic speakers I would make sure they weren't tripped up by it, but there are many monolingual EFL teachers that I don't think would be aware of how time works in other languages and of the possible confusion it could cause. I remember travelling around Oz with some German speakers and when they told me about this difference I almost didn't believe them :p I couldn't fathom that "half five" meant 04:30, there were a group of us Brits, and we all found it difficult to believe (I actually remember where we were when having that conversation :eek:!)

    Definitely for the future now I know it's an important point to watch out for if I ever find myself doing that, explaining that not everyone is ok with what I find the most normal, but whoever thought such a global language didn't have such differences? Sort of obvious that differences pop up every now and again, wasn't expecting any other native to consider it wrong though, that was a shock :p

    I actually did a vote on this at the pub the other night, out of 10 people 8 of them read the time without "past", and two with "past", and then as a follow up I asked if they had any problem without using past, and they said no, and seemed a little confused as if they never realised there are two ways they naturally say it. It's quite funny to put linguistic doubts in people's minds and watch their expressions when they've never realised something before.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    It is in Talmudic Hebrew. For example חצי שש וחצי שבע חמה עומדת בראש = half six and half seven the sun stands at top (of sky). The hours counting goes from sunrise to sunset, thus the 6th hour is noon, half six and half seven are like the German notation: half of the 6th hour (5:30) through half of the 7th hour (6:30) = midday plus/minus half an hour.
    Interesting. Thank you.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    Probably if teaching students to speak, understand and interact with real people in English, i.e. "Communicative English"--and if time permits--you should mention that in British English people say "half six" as opposed to "half past six." Since it is totally foreign to my English, I wouldn't use it--but i'd mention it and make the students aware of its use in, at least spoken, British English. I'd also make sure that they knew NOT to use it with other English speakers as it would cause a lot of confusion--for non-native speakers of English (not only Germanic, but others would also think it meant 5.30), and Americans who would just respond with "huh?"
    By the way, as for logical analysis (and of course, languages DO NOT have to be mathematically logical), saying half six for 6.30 seems REALLY illogical to me. When you say half of something, I find you imply the next whole. Half six just seems logically like saying "half of six", which equals "five and a half" (5.30). Maybe I've been too influenced by German (which I grew up speaking) to get that idea out of my head. I can only rationalize "half six" by thinking that the word "past" has been swallowed up--but is implied.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    By the way, as for logical analysis (and of course, languages DO NOT have to be mathematically logical), saying half six for 6.30 seems REALLY illogical to me. When you say half of something, I find you imply the next whole. Half six just seems logically like saying "half of six", which equals "five and a half" (5.30). Maybe I've been too influenced by German (which I grew up speaking) to get that idea out of my head.
    I was talking to an Icelander about 6 weeks ago and we had exactly the same conversation, he said it made more logical sense in his language, and I said it made more logical sense in my language. Of course everyone's native language is going to feel more intuitive, but it's moments like this that make you realise about what you think makes the most sense, it's just based on what you're used to, not any true "logic". What would surprise me was if German didn't have some influence on your decision.
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    Probably German does have some influence--especially since it kind of is/was my first language. But, that German calque has been reinforced by Polish (which I know) and uses a rather similar construction. On top of that, the fact that Americans don't generally express time in halves and quarters (well, probably someone somewhere in the US does) but just say the numbers. Let's hear it for diversity.
     

    Walshie79

    Member
    English (British)
    Probably if teaching students to speak, understand and interact with real people in English, i.e. "Communicative English"--and if time permits--you should mention that in British English people say "half six" as opposed to "half past six." Since it is totally foreign to my English, I wouldn't use it--but i'd mention it and make the students aware of its use in, at least spoken, British English. I'd also make sure that they knew NOT to use it with other English speakers as it would cause a lot of confusion--for non-native speakers of English (not only Germanic, but others would also think it meant 5.30), and Americans who would just respond with "huh?"
    By the way, as for logical analysis (and of course, languages DO NOT have to be mathematically logical), saying half six for 6.30 seems REALLY illogical to me. When you say half of something, I find you imply the next whole. Half six just seems logically like saying "half of six",

    "Half of six"- if someone said that I'd initially think "three".


    Years ago when I did my only year of German at school, we were specifically warned about the "half six"- "halb sechs" problem, and taught to say "sechs Uhr dreizig" instead. Which of course was useless when it came to listening comprehension, and tapes of Germans saying "halb sechs"...

    The only way I can ever understand the "half six = 05:30" interpretation is by thinking of Roman numerals: IV=4 (1 before 5); IX=10, XC=90.
     
    Yeah, I am actually qualified to teach English abroad to adult students (though I haven't done any teaching yet, I decided to do a degree and re-take the examination next year as part of it, because it's an optional to do this with a BA in Linguistics). Anyway, if I was planning a lesson on telling the time, I'm sure naturally with emphasis on past / to I would (subconsciously) start saying that, but I'm sure when pointing to the time I would not think twice about pointing to 05:30 and asking them to repeat "Half five".

    As you say, for me it's not colloquial at all, it's completely interchangeable with any other version.
    If there were Germanic speakers I would make sure they weren't tripped up by it, but there are many monolingual EFL teachers that I don't think would be aware of how time works in other languages and of the possible confusion it could cause. I remember travelling around Oz with some German speakers and when they told me about this difference I almost didn't believe them :p I couldn't fathom that "half five" meant 04:30, there were a group of us Brits, and we all found it difficult to believe (I actually remember where we were when having that conversation :eek:!)

    Definitely for the future now I know it's an important point to watch out for if I ever find myself doing that, explaining that not everyone is ok with what I find the most normal, but whoever thought such a global language didn't have such differences? Sort of obvious that differences pop up every now and again, wasn't expecting any other native to consider it wrong though, that was a shock :p

    I actually did a vote on this at the pub the other night, out of 10 people 8 of them read the time without "past", and two with "past", and then as a follow up I asked if they had any problem without using past, and they said no, and seemed a little confused as if they never realised there are two ways they naturally say it. It's quite funny to put linguistic doubts in people's minds and watch their expressions when they've never realised something before.
    "Half eight" for "half past eight" definitely started as a colloquialism, but I can accept that generations X and Y might have adopted it as standard speech.

    However, it doesn't apply to any other number of minutes past the hour, does it? Nobody says "Quarter eight" for 8.15, or "Three quarters eight" for 8.45.

    Unless the language fairies are planning some more changes, I suspect that "Half [the hour]" will remain unique.
     

    elirlandes

    Senior Member
    Ireland English
    Just to confirm what Alxmrphi says (as nobody else has yet...).
    In British English and also in Ireland, it is extremely common to hear 06:30 expressed as "half six". To an Irish ear, "half past six" which means the same also sounds perfectly normal, but perhaps just a little more formal. "Half six" is the norm.
     

    francisgranada

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Let me add my half two cents :) to this interesting discussion.

    Hungarian

    fél három (with no suffixes, litterally "half three") = 2:30
    negyed három (lit. "quarter three") = 2:15
    három negyed három (lit. "three quarter three") = 2:45


    The western Slavic languages (as already told by Jazyk and Koniecswiata):

    Polish: Wpól do trzeciej (lit. half to third) = 2:30
    Czech: Půl třetí (lit. half of third) = 2:30
    Slovak: Pol tretej (lit. half of third) = 2:30

    The Polish version seems to be the most logical, as it is perfectly undestandable: "half an hour to the third hour". It's interesting though, that the western Slavic languages use ordinal numbers in this case.

    ...in Slovenian, we have such expressions as well. "Pol desetih" (half of ten) is 9:30....

    The form "desetih" in this case seems to be a genitive plural of the cardinal number deset (ten). Or, is it rather the genitive plural of the ordinal number deseti (tenth) ?
     
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    OBrasilo

    Senior Member
    Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese
    Considering 2:30 is "Pol treh" and not "Pol tretjih", it's indeed cardinal, and not ordinal in Slovenian. Note 1:30 is "Pol dveh", and 12:30 is "Pol enih".
    In Russian however, it's like in Czech or Slovak. 1:30 is "Pol vtorogo" (note, hour in Russian is "chas", which is masculine), literally "Half of the second". 2:30 is "Pol tretego", and 12:30 is "Pol pervogo".

    Edit: Note though, Slovenian still uses "pol-" with ordinal numbers in counting, just not for hours. For example, "poldrugi mesec" (lit. "half-second month") is another way to say "a month and a half", if I recall correctly. ;)
     

    Orlin

    Banned
    български
    In Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian 2:30 = pola tri ("half three"), in Bulgarian 2:30 = два и половина ("two and a half").
     

    koniecswiata

    Senior Member
    Am English
    So, it seems that the British English (definitely NOT American English) system of "half + number" is definitely the odd one among European languages. So far the evidence from Slavic, other Germanic, Romance and Hungarian is that "half + number" is understood as being half of that number, not as in British English where "half + number" is understood as refering to the previous/lower number. It could be said that the European languages are going about it mathematically, while British English is using a colloquial and highly idiomatically specific system that would confuse anybody not used to it. Of course, each language has a right to its own logic :)
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    So, it seems that the British English (definitely NOT American English) system of "half + number" is definitely the odd one among European languages. So far the evidence from Slavic, other Germanic, Romance and Hungarian is that "half + number" is understood as being half of that number, not as in British English where "half + number" is understood as refering to the previous/lower number. It could be said that the European languages are going about it mathematically, while British English is using a colloquial and highly idiomatically specific system that would confuse anybody not used to it. Of course, each language has a right to its own logic :)

    Good summary :D
     

    terredepomme

    Senior Member
    Korean
    I just learned in my German class that German-speakers say half (n-1)hr. I never knew that the British did the same thing. A pity that I was taught American English...
     
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