English with Kirsty – episode 74

Mistakes to avoid with times and dates

You can listen to episode 74 here:

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Often, when we write business emails or letters, we need to talk about dates and times. I often see mistakes in relation to dates and times, so I am going to talk about a few of them now.

Prepositions are tiny words, but choosing the wrong one can mean that you make mistakes in your text.

At is used for times: at 2 o’clock/at 14:00.
at lunch time
It can also be a time in a week or month:
At the end of August
At the beginning of next week
At the weekend
At Christmas time

On is used for days of the week and dates:
On Thursday
On 28th March

In is used for months and years:
In 2008
In September
In the evening/in the morning

In British English, we write the date, then the month, then the year.
13th January 2017

In American English, it’s the other way round:
January 13th, 2017

When I’m writing for an international audience, I try to write the month out if there is any possibility of confusion. For English readers, 04/03/2017 is clearly in March, but I wouldn’t want people to miss an event because they thought it was in April. Therefore I would write 4th March.

We may Say 4th of March, but you don’t need the “of” in writing.


In the UK, we use both the 12 and the 24 hour clock.
17:15 or quarter past 5

If it’s obvious, you don’t need to use am and pm – unless there are complicated time zone calculations, nobody should be asking for a meeting at 3 o’clock in the morning, so it’s fairly obvious that 3 o’clock means 3pm.

Only use o’clock for the hour – 1 o’clock, 5 o’clock. Don’t say 5:30 o’clock.

Half four = half past four. This confuses some German speakers, as half four in German is 3:30.

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