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How To Tell Military Time – Easy 24 Hour Clock Guide

How To Tell Military Time – Easy 24 Hour Clock Guide

How To Tell Military Time – Easy 24 Hour Clock Guide


I’ll be honest, I used to struggle with knowing how to tell military time. Like many people, who have never served in the Armed Forces, it felt unnatural to me. So it would get me stumped when someone threw military hours my way.

It was fine when they were referring to the morning – thankfully. I mean, who’s not going to get the references to 07.00 hours? But when I was hit with those afternoon and evening military times, I’d be thrown through a loop.

I understood that I needed to add or subtract 12 in order to convert military time to standard time, I just found it hard knowing which one was the correct option in the moment.

This resulted in friends standing around as I looked on at them befuddled (yes befuddled), doing my best to make the conversion to military time as quickly as I could.

All the while I would try not to look like a prize nugget head, but alas that prize was surely mine.

Until I finally unraveled the military time keeping puzzle.

So if you’re done with the embarrassment of trying to quickly converting military time to standard time, this guide is for you.


How do you read 24 hour clock?

There are two main ways for telling time: either the 12-hour or the 24-hour. Typically, North American civilians tell the time via the 12-hour clock.

In this time system, the day is separated into two: what is called the ante meridiem – am, which is 12 hours from midnight to noon, and the post meridiem – pm which is 12 hours from noon to midnight

If you look at the military time system, which is the 24-hour clock, the hours run 0-23, midnight to midnight. The 00:00 is midnight with the last minute of the day being 23:59.

In the 24 hour clock system, midnight is sometimes refereed to as 24:00. This hour indicates that the end of the day has come. Someone could say to you that Wednesday ends at 24:00 tonight, which means that Thursday begins at 00:00.


How do you convert 12 hours to 24 hours?

If you want to know how to quickly convert military time, it’s pretty straightforward – once you get the hang of it.

  • The hours from 1am to noon are the same as in standard time. For hours below 10, you just add a zero in front of it. So 9:00am becomes 0900.
  • For military time that are 1300 or higher, just subtract 1200 to get the standard time. For instance if someone says “let’s meet in room 102 at 1545,” you just subtract 1200 from 1545 to get 3:45pm. Easy – right?
  • To convert civilian time to military time, add 1200 to any time from 1:00pm to 11:00pm. Say you want to say 8:30pm in military terms, just add 1200 to 8:30 to get 2030.

Is midnight 2400 or 0000? Midnight is a wild card. It can either be high or low. So it’s common to hear people refer to midnight as 2400 or 0000.


Chart table to convert military time to civilian time

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Disadvantages of standard time

If you look at the two systems, the 12-hour clock definitely has some disadvantages. There’s the confusion concerning whether a time is am or pm. Then there’s 12:00 is that midnight or noon? So to clarify, we are constantly having to specify if we are referring to am or pm.

It’s much simpler to work out the duration of something using the 24-hour clock. For example, you have a meeting from 10:30 to 13:30, it easy to work out that your meeting will take 3 hours.

This straightforward way of getting the precise times and duration has made 24-hour clock popular all over the world.

The military time origins can be traced all the way back to the ancient Egyptian times. However, it wasn’t until 1920 that the system was fully taken on by the US Navy and then the Army during WWII in 1942.

The 24-hour clock is an international way for telling time. It is only in North America, Great Britain, and English-speaking Canada, that it scarcely get used.

In these countries its the Armed Forces (some medical and emergency services, aviation, navigation, and computing) that rely on this system of time telling. For this reason it’s usually refered to as “military time.



Why do we have military time?

mens military watch: how to tell military time

Mens military watch: military time keeping provides more accuracy, especially to professionals in the arm forces and in medical professions

Military watch: Telling the time with the 24 hour system makes it much more accurate, which is why it is used by army and medical professionals

Where the 12 hour clock is common, professionals use the 24 hour clock to reduce episodes of confusion. One of the main advantages of military time is knowing exactly what time of the day you’re talking about.

In countries where 12 hour time system is used, Military Time is utilized when  a mistake in time of an event could have disastrous consequences.

The ability to read Military Times is crucial for people in these situations. Take, for instance, scientists and Polar explorers, they need the 24 hour clock because the presence of the Sun is either reduced or prolonged beyond what people are used to.

In these situations night could lasts all day, and the same goes for daylight, so the 24 hour time system is needed to really know what time it is.

I’m sure you can guess why it’s common in hospitals, any mistake while performing an operation or giving medicine could be lethal.

In the case of the military, 24 hour clocks are used to clear any confusion.  Military people are usually communicating across time zones, dealing with sensitive information, and performing time-sensitive tasks.



Bottom Line

Hopefully the head scratching should have abated and your questions on how to tell military time should be well and truly answered. If you’re still in quandary about the 24 hour clock, feel free to bookmark this page and refer back to it when needed.

If you are now full of vim and looking forward to dealing with military time on a day to day basis, why not check out our range of military watches in-store, use code Capt7 for an exclusive 20% off.



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