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What is Military Time? - Definition & Format Video

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  • 0:00 What Is Military Time?
  • 0:33 Purpose of Military Time
  • 1:03 Military Time Comparisons
  • 2:20 The Trick to Military Time
  • 3:13 Some More Examples
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Matalone

Stephanie taught high school science and math and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Education.

In this lesson, we will discuss military time - a method of telling time based on 24 hours instead of the familiar 12 hours we use in the United States. We will explore why we use military time and how to convert it to the customary 12-hour convention.

What Is Military Time?

Military time is a way to tell time with 24 hours, where a day starts at 0 hours and ends at 24 hours. This is different from the 12-hour clock we most commonly use in the United States. The 12-hour clock restarts midday at 1:00 pm, while the military clock keeps counting up midday to 1300 hours and beyond. You can see in the picture how the watch is formatted differently to accommodate all 24 hours instead of just 12.

24-hour watch
24-hour watch

Purpose of Military Time

Military time is used because it avoids the confusion between A.M. (morning hours) and P.M. (evening hours). We have all been there, accidentally setting our alarm for 7:00 P.M. instead of 7:00 A.M, only to be late to an important interview or work. With military time, we have no confusion because the numbers never repeat themselves. For example, 0700 hours can only mean 7:00 in the morning because military time does not have 7:00 at night. 7:00 at night would be 1900 hours.

Military Time Comparisons

In comparing military time to the 12-hour clock most of us are used to, the first 12 hours in a day stay roughly the same, just written a bit differently. For example, 10:00 A.M. (in the morning) is written as 1000. Military time typically does not use a colon (:) to separate the hours and minutes; they are just written together. The first two numbers in military time tell you the hour while the last two numbers tell you the minutes. So, if you want to use 10:35 A.M., you would write 1035 and say ten thirty five. Some branches of the military use the term hours after the time, saying ten thirty five hours. Military time always uses four numbers, so fill in blanks with zeroes. For example, 6:00 A.M. would be written 0600, not just 600 or 6.

Afternoon hours are where the major changes occur when compared to the 12-hour clock. Using the 12-hour clock, we would say the hour after midday is 1:00 P.M. Military time states this is 1300, or thirteen hundred. 4:43 in the afternoon would be 1643, which would be said sixteen forty-three hours.

Looking at the chart, we can see a comparison of various hours throughout the day.

Chart comparing times throughout the day
 Chart comparing times throughout the day

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