in/within a quarter vs. in/within fifteen minutes

zaffy

Senior Member
Polish
Are all of these natural? Say we are at a party and all the cookies are gone, that is, have been eaten.

A: Where are the cookies? I haven't eaten even one!
B: Sorry,
1. all the cookies disappeared within a quarter.
2. all the cookies disappeared in a quarter.
3. all the cookies disappeared within 15 minutes.
4. all the cookies disappeared in 15 minutes.
 
  • kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    You can say you'll meet in three quarters of an hour. It would be more common to say 45 minutes, at least where I live. The same with a quarter of an hour - 15 minutes would be more common.

    It would be much closer between 30 minutes and half an hour. They seem equally natural.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    You can say you'll meet in three quarters of an hour. It would be more common to say 45 minutes, at least where I live. The same with a quarter of an hour - 15 minutes would be more common.

    It would be much closer between 30 minutes and half an hour. They seem equally natural.
    I think "a quarter of an hour" (or 3/4) is more common in BE than AE (or was when I lived there :))
    The Ngrams show that "a quarter of an hour" is almost twice as popular in BE, although its use has steadily fallen.
     
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    zaffy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    So I could say this, right? Tough 15 minutes would be more common, right?

    A: How much time do you need to fix that?
    B: A quarter of an hour.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It appears that over time, as technology and society have become more precise and closely measured, that the numerical versions have gained usage. [Assuming the ngrams are measuring something meaningful.]
    Indeed. If I were discussing something technical I'd very probably say fifteen minutes, not a quarter of an hour (as I would in normal conversation).
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    But do you think digit displays, especially for clocks, were prominent in 1900.
    I didn't say that, but no, I don't. The precision (and pace) of life (and the ability/need to predict the timing of events, meetings etc) were beginning to require people to specify to the nearest minute rather than the nearest quarter of an hour. Or something like that :D
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    But do you think digit displays, especially for clocks, were prominent in 1900.
    I have a collection of 19th century digital watches. o_O

    The Ngram results for "15 minutes" are skewed by astronomical and geographical references.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    That's why I said meaningful above. Who knows what we're seeing. Astronomy does use 15 minutes as a measure of an angle. I don't know how to narrow it down.
     
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