3 Parts of Telling time lessons
The Thai way of telling the time takes a little getting used to, as it's very different from English and other European languages. Thais do use the familiar 24 hour military time system to some extent, for example for official announcements, but in everyday life a different and uniquely Thai system is used instead. The easiest way to approach it is to recognize that the Thai clock is divided up into roughly 4 blocks of 6 hours each rather than 2 of 12, and that each of these blocks of time is referred to in a different way.
For telling time between the hours of 1am and 5am, the number of the hour is preceded by the word ตี dtee . This is also the verb "to strike", and its use here comes from the ancient custom of a night watchman striking a drum on the hour throughout the night to reassure village residents of their safety.
"gee moong láew ( kráp / kâ )"= What time is it now?
What time does the bus leave ? รถจะออกกี่โมง rot ja ork gee moong?
12am / Midnight เที่ยงคืน tîang keun 1am ตีหนึ่ง dtee nèung
2am ตีสอง dtee sŏng
From 6am to 11am, the number of the hour is followed by the word โมง moong
("o'clock") and optionally also เช้า cháo ("morning"). This is where you can see that
the day is divided into 4 blocks, as the hours from 7am - 11am can also be referred
to using the numbers 1 - 5 followed by โมง เช้า moong cháo . 9am, for instance,
can be either เก้าโมงเช้า gâo moong cháo ("9 o'clock in the morning") or
สามโมงเช้า săam moong cháo ("3 o'clock in the morning").
6am can only be referred to as หกโมงเช้า hòk moong cháo though,
leading to the somewhat bizarre situation of hòk moong cháo
("6 o'clock in the morning", 6am) actually being earlier in the day than, say,
สองโมงเช้า sŏng moong cháo ("2 o'clock in the morning", 8am).
("early afternoon") and เย็น yen ("late afternoon/early evening").
1-3pm are always referred to using bàai, 5-6pm using yen .
4pm is borderline between the two time periods and can be referred to using
either of them, though it's more common to use yen.
If the context makes it clear that it's the afternoon not the morning being
referred to, then the yen or bàai can be dropped to leave just the number of
the hour followed by moong.
The hours from 7pm to 11pm are referred to using the numbers
1 - 5 followed by the word ทุ่ม tûm.
Midnight is เที่ยงคืน tang khuun
The number of minutes past the hour are then added on.
Thai has no equivalent to the English "quarter to" and "quarter past"
(the numbers 15 and 45 are used instead), but for "half past" the word
ครึ่ง krêung ("half") can be used.
ครับ / ค่ะ ) rót jà òk gèe moong ( kráp / kâ )
7.15am เจ็ดโมง (เช้า )สิบห้า jèt moong ( cháo ) sìp hâa
3.20pm บ่ายสาม ยี่สิบ bàai săam yêe sìp
8.30pm สองทุ่ม ครึ่ง sŏng tûm krêung
5.50am ตีห้า ห้าสิบ dtee hâa hâa sìp