The meaning of “a quarter to four” is straightforward. It simply means that it is 15 minutes until four o’clock. The phrase is often used in place of saying “3:45” and is a common way of indicating the time.
"A quarter to four" is a shorthand way of expressing the time 3:45.
The phrase "a quarter to four" means that the time is 3:45, or 15 minutes before 4:00. In other words, there are 15 minutes remaining until the clock strikes four. The term "quarter" in this idiom refers to a quarter-hour, which is equal to 15 minutes. This expression is used when speaking informally to give the rough time in a casual way.
Here are the key points about its meaning:
The phrase "a quarter to four" originates from the practice of telling time in quarters, a concept dating back centuries. This method divided the hour into four parts, with "a quarter to" referring to the last quarter-hour before the full hour. The usage of this phrase reflects the precision and accuracy of timekeeping in English-speaking cultures.
"The members who first arrived of course immediately presented their tickets and demanded entrance, but this the porter refused, saying he had orders to let "no person" in until a quarter to four."
-The Lancet London, 1831
Here are some examples of the idiom in use:
Though not as frequently as other idioms, "a quarter to four" can appear in pop culture, often used to denote suspense or anticipation tied to the time.
Let's explore some instances:
Other ways to express "a quarter to four" can involve varying the structure while keeping the same meaning:
Here are some of them:
"A quarter to four" is a phrase referring to the time 15 minutes before four o'clock.
You can use "a quarter to four" to reference a specific time, e.g., "The train is due to arrive at a quarter to four."
The phrase is a product of the method of telling time in quarters, a tradition that goes back centuries, and denotes the last quarter-hour before the full hour.
Yes, the idiom can be used with any hour to indicate 15 minutes before that time. For example: A quarter to six (5:45) and a quarter to eleven (10:45).
No, "a quarter to four" only means 15 minutes before the hour. To indicate 15 minutes after the hour, you would say "a quarter after four" or "four fifteen".
The phrase can be used in both formal and informal contexts as it primarily denotes a specific time.
Yes, alternatives include "three forty-five" or "fifteen minutes to four".
Not particularly, it is primarily a functional phrase used for timekeeping.
"A quarter to four" is an informal idiom, typically used in casual speech or writing. It would usually not be appropriate for very formal contexts.
Yes, it is a common way of expressing time, especially in English-speaking countries where the "quarter" system is prevalent.
The phrase "a quarter to four" is a straightforward, functional phrase used to indicate a specific time—15 minutes before four o'clock.
Here's a quick recap:
The idiom remains a staple of English language timekeeping and a useful phrase for precise communication.