How to ask for the time

2014-04-09 17:04 BBC

Callum: Hello, I’m Callum Robertson. In this How to … we’re looking at how to ask about the time.

For hundreds, maybe thousands of years we’ve all been obsessed by time. It’s part of our everyday lives. If we don’t know the time we might not be in time or even on time. We could miss our busses and trains, we might be late for appointments, late for work and most importantly, not catch our favourite television programmes.
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You can see the time on your watch, if you don’t have a watch there are clocks on walls and on many buildings. If you aren’t near any of those then the chances are your mobile phone can tell you the time.

But what if you don’t have any of these, your watch has stopped and your phone is set to a different time zone? How do you ask a stranger for the time?

One simple question you might think to ask is this one:

EXAMPLE
What time is it?

Callum: “What time is it?” Notice the pronunciation of this. All of the words link and join together.

EXAMPLE
What time is it?

Callum: “What time is it?” This is a perfectly good question, but there is a problem with it. It’s fine if you are talking to a friend or colleague. But if, for example, you were waiting at a bus stop and you had to ask a complete stranger it could sound a little rude, a little too direct. There is a question which is more suitable for this situation.

EXAMPLE
Have you got the time?

Callum: “Have you got the time?” This is a more polite way to ask,

EXAMPLE
Have you got the time?

Callum: Although this is more polite it’s still a little direct. I went around the office to ask my colleagues how they would ask a stranger for the time. This is what they said:

EXAMPLES
Excuse me, have you got the time please?
Excuse me, have you got the time?
Sorry, have you got the time?
Have you got the time please?
Excuse me mate, have you got the time?
Have you got the time please?

Callum: This may seem like lots of different expressions, but in fact, there is still only the one structure. “Have you got the time?” Listen again and listen out for this phrase in each example. “Have you got” is pronounced very quickly like this: “have you got”

EXAMPLES
Excuse me, have you got the time please?
Excuse me, have you got the time?
Sorry, have you got the time?
Have you got the time please?
Excuse me mate, have you got the time?
Have you got the time please?

Callum: What is different about the sentences is the way the question is introduced. Remember in these situations you don’t know the person you are asking, so it’s usual to use polite language to get their attention when asking for help. Listen again to some of the examples. These ones all start in the same way, what is it?

EXAMPLES
Excuse me, have you got the time?
Excuse me, have you got the time please?
Excuse me mate, have you got the time?


Callum: They all start with ‘Excuse me’. This is perhaps the most common polite way to stop someone in the street to ask them something. – “Excuse me …”.

Listen again

EXAMPLES
Excuse me, have you got the time?
Excuse me, have you got the time please?
Excuse me mate, have you got the time?

Callum: The second speaker also adds the ‘please’ at the end of her question. This adds an extra layer of politeness.

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