A Complete Guide To Military Time
In everyday life, most people rarely stray from the 12-hour civilian time telling system. But at some point in your life, you’ve probably encountered military time. Maybe you’ve heard it used in a TV show, or a friend has told you to meet them for dinner at 18:00, or you’ve accidentally pressed that button on your watch that converted the time to a 24-hour system, making it seemingly impossible to read. Whether you’ve encountered such difficulties or are just curious about the military time telling system, we’ve provided a complete guide to military time to teach you the basics and help you learn more.
What Is Military Time?
Military time is a system of telling time that utilizes a 24-hour clock. Unlike a standard or civilian time telling system, the hour numbers don’t cycle back to one after noon. Rather, in military time, the hour numbers range from zero to 23 or 24. Midnight is the starting point and is referred to as either 00:00 or 24:00. While most of the civilian world, at least in the United States, uses the standard time system, military time is often used in the military and other industries where quickly communicating the exact time is important.
How To Read and Calculate Military Time
The military time format looks intimidating, but it’s really not all that complicated. On the face of a digital clock, military time will always be displayed with four digits, and depending on the clock, will sometimes have a colon between the numbers signifying the hour and those signifying the time. As we mentioned before, the military time format operates from a 24-hour clock. In the morning hours, military time will read quite similarly to standard time—for example, a standard time of 7:45 a.m. would read 0745 (07:45) in military time. The afternoon hours are where things get a bit trickier. After 12:59 p.m. in standard time format, the time will cycle back to 1:00, with afternoon signified by the addition of “p.m.” In military time, the hours simply continue on from 12, so 1:00 p.m. standard time would be read as 1300 (13:00) in military time.
So, how do you convert between the standard military time formats? Good news—once you know how, it’s not actually too hard. In the morning, the times are essentially the same, so there’s no need for conversion. If the hour is past 12:59 p.m. standard time, you’ll need to convert. To convert from standard time to military time, simply add 12 to the hour. So, if it’s 5:30 p.m. standard time, you can add 12 to get the resulting 1730 in military time. To convert from military time to standard time, just subtract 12 from the hour.
For your reference, here is a standard time-to-military-time conversion chart:
- Midnight – 0000 (or 2400)
- 1:00 a.m. – 0100
- 2:00 a.m. – 0200
- 3:00 a.m. – 0300
- 4:00 a.m. – 0400
- 5:00 a.m. – 0500
- 6:00 a.m. – 0600
- 7:00 a.m. – 0700
- 8:00 a.m. – 0800
- 9:00 a.m. – 0900
- 10:00 a.m. – 1000
- 11:00 a.m. – 1100
- 12:00 p.m. – 1200
- 1:00 p.m. – 1300
- 2:00 p.m. – 1400
- 3:00 p.m. – 1500
- 4:00 p.m. – 1600
- 5:00 p.m. – 1700
- 6:00 p.m. – 1800
- 7:00 p.m. – 1900
- 8:00 p.m. – 2000
- 9:00 p.m. – 2100
- 10:00 p.m. – 2200
- 11:00 p.m. – 2300
How To Write Military Time
Writing a time in military time is not much different than reading it on a clock. There is one important detail to remember, though: when writing military times, don’t include the colon between the hours and minutes. While a clock displaying military time may read 15:26, that same time should be written as 1526.
How To Say Military Time
You’ve probably heard someone use military time in a movie or TV show but be wary of following their lead on speaking military time—it's not always technically right. When speaking military time, every digit should be accounted for, including the initial zero. If the time is 0700, it would be pronounced “zero seven hundred,” with the first digit being said as “zero” rather than “oh.” When the time includes minutes, they will be pronounced as minutes normally would be. Here are a few examples of how different military times would be spoken:
- 0003 – “zero zero zero three”
- 0315 – “zero three fifteen”
- 1736 – “seventeen thirty-six"
You may hear some people use different pronunciations when speaking military time, including replacing a first “zero” with an “oh.” Generally, these variations are accepted, but military protocol requires the use of “zero.” Sometimes, people will add the word “hours” after stating the time—this is acceptable but not required.
Who Uses Military Time?
So now you know what military time is, but you’ve probably never had to use it before. Certain industries and roles, however, do use military time regularly. Usually, these industries are the ones where time is of the essence and people need to be able to quickly communicate the exact time. Industries that typically use military time include:
- Emergency Services
In any of these industries, the use of military time allows people to communicate exact times in high stakes situations without the confusion that needing to distinguish between morning and afternoon hours can cause. For example, a police officer might use military time to respond promptly to a situation at the proper time, while in the medical industry, a patient’s medical record might be written in military time to make it perfectly clear at what time a procedure took place. In addition to its use in certain industries, some countries throughout the world use a 24-hour time format rather than the 12-hour format that we see as standard in the U.S.
Advantages of Using Military Time
Outside of these industries, why might someone choose to use military time instead of standard time? Well, military time offers several benefits that standard time does not. Military time allows for precision and a lack of ambiguity that standard time does not. If someone told you that they wanted to meet up at 1900 hours, you would know without a shadow of a doubt that you were to meet at 7:00 in the evening. But if someone were to simply say “meet me at 7:00” without specifying a.m. or p.m., you might be confused as to whether you were meeting in the morning or evening. You’ve probably experienced the repercussions of accidentally setting your alarm for 6:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 a.m.—this is a mistake you’ll never make when using military time. Furthermore, using military time makes it easier to calculate the amount of time between hours in the morning and afternoon, which makes it easier to manage your time overall.
Based on what you’ve learned in this complete guide to military time, would you ever consider using military time instead of standard time? It could be an interesting experiment to try for a while, and you may even benefit from making the transition to a different time format. If you work in an industry that uses military time already, BigTimeClocks can provide you with a big digital clock capable of displaying both 12- and 24-hour time. With our clocks in your facility, you’ll never lose track of the time again.