on nine o'clock

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michael13

Senior Member
Chinese
In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a sentence:

-Went out just on nine o'clock last night.

I've used the wordreference dictionary, but can't find the meaning; does ON mean NEAR or EXACTLY?

(Some say NEAR, some say EXACTLY, so I'm confused....
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I'd say "Exactly", but in casual speech I would expect this to mean "exactly nine o'clock, give or take two or three minutes." If I were expecting to hear a precise time, I would expect to hear "at exactly nine o'clock", or "at nine o'clock precisely".
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    There are a few other phrases that use on like this:

    He went out going on nine o'clock last night. -> some time, but not that long, before nine o'clock.

    Went out on the dot/stroke of nine o'clock last night. -> exactly as the minute hand of the clock reached 12.

    So if we look at "
    Went out just on nine o'clock last night." we have a use of 'just' that indicates the minute hand having 'just' reached 12.

    However, and this is where I am close to
    velisarius's meaning, human beings are rarely able to state time with absolute accuracy; they look at clocks and watches that might be a minute or two fast or slow. therefore, "exactly nine o'clock, or one minute to nine o'clock."


     
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