How to Tell Time on an Analog Clock

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  • 0:05 An Analog Clock
  • 0:40 How to Tell Hours
  • 1:06 How to Tell Minutes
  • 2:37 How to Tell Seconds
  • 3:36 Examples
  • 5:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Watch this video lesson and you will learn how to read the big clock with moving hands that is on the wall of most classrooms. You will see how the clock is divided into hours, minutes, and seconds.

An Analog Clock

In this lesson, you will learn how to read analog clocks. An analog clock is a clock with moving hands. Most offices and classrooms have these clocks on their walls. This is the clock that has been used for hundreds of years. It has a round face with the numbers 1 through 12 written on it. It also has sticks called hands that move around in a circle. These hands allow you to tell the time.


The longest stick, the red one in this image, tells you the seconds. The second longest one tells you the minutes and the shortest one tells you the hours. Let's see how this is done.

How to Tell Hours

First, how do we tell what hour it is? We look at the shortest hand. What number is it at, or just past? All our hands will move from the smaller numbers to the larger numbers, except when they reach the 12. Then they go towards the 1. Looking at our clock, what number did the short hand just pass? Is it the 8? Yes, it is. It just passed the 8. This means that we are in the 8th hour.

How to Tell Minutes

Now, let's talk about reading the minutes. To read the minutes, we rely on the second-longest hand. This is the hand that is longer than the hour hand, but shorter than the second hand. Some analog clocks only have an hour and a minute hand. In this case, the minute hand is the longest hand. In our clock, our minute hand is the middle one.

When we look to see what hour it is, we use the large numbers written on the face of the clock. When we look to see the minutes, though, we won't be reading these numbers. Instead, we will be counting off the small tick marks. We start with the tick mark right after the 12. This is tick mark number 1. When we are reading minutes, this equates to 1 minute. Just like when we are reading the hour, when we read for minutes, we look to see which tick mark our minute hand is at or has just passed.

Looking at our clock, which tick mark has our minute hand passed? An easy way to count is to remember that the numbers 1 through 12 separate the small tick marks into groups of 5. So the number 1 is equal to tick mark 5. The number 2 is equal to tick mark 10, and so on - the 12 is equal to tick mark 60. However, we won't write down 60; instead, we will write down 0 because 12 is where our tick mark begins again.

So, looking at our clock, we see that our minute hand has just passed tick mark 7. This means we are in minute 7, making our time so far 8:07. We use a colon to separate our hour and our minute when writing the time.

How to Tell Seconds

Third, we need to know how to read the second hand. This is actually the same as reading the minute hand. The second hand uses the same tick marks that the minute hand uses. Just like the minute hand, we read the number that the second hand is at or has just passed. For our clock, we see that our second hand is at tick mark 32. This means that we are at 32 seconds in time. So our time right now is 8:07:32. Again, we use a colon to separate our minute and second time.

Our time right now isn't complete, though. Because analog clocks only show 12 hours, we need to figure out if this is the time for the first half of the day or the second half of the day. If our time is 8:07:32 in the morning, then we will mark it as AM at the end. If it is 8:07:32 in the evening, then we mark it with a PM at the end. Let's say this is the evening. Our complete time is, thus, 8:07:32 PM.


Let's practice reading a couple clocks.

What time does this clock say?


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