How to Tell Military Time

Military time is a system of measuring hours, minutes and seconds that combines standard 24-hour time with the daylight saving (DST) or “War Time” concept. This system was developed to make army movements easier during wartime when soldiers could change their watches twice each day, in accordance with the DST schedule. The military adopted this method for other branches of service as well so all personnel would be on the same clock..

Military time is 24-hour format. The military uses a 12-hour clock, but the civilian world uses a 24-hour clock. Read more in detail here: how to tell military time 24-hour format.

Vintage solider playing trumpet bugle in uniform.

Because I had never been in the military, I was always taken aback anytime someone would casually mention military service. Morning times were not an issue for me since they are simple to figure out. 0800. Yes, I understand. 8:00am.

I encountered issues when someone provided me a time that was in the afternoon or late. I knew I needed to add or subtract 12 to convert military time to standard time, but I couldn’t tell which option was accurate at the time. As a result, I’d stand there in quiet, furrowing my brows, attempting to convert as soon as possible so I didn’t seem to be an idiot.

I was constantly making a fool of myself.

Tired of being a civilian chucklehead, I resolved to learn how to convert military time to standard time swiftly and efficiently once and for all. This is how you do it.

The Differences Between the 12-Hour and 24-Hour Time Systems

Clock illustration with military time hours displayed.

The 12-hour and 24-hour clocks are the two most used timekeeping systems. Civilians in North America utilize the 12-hour clock, which divides the day into two sections: 12 hours from midnight to noon (ante meridiem — a.m.) and 12 hours from noon to midnight (post meridiem — p.m.). The hours of the day go from 0-23, midnight to midnight, on a 24-hour clock. The first minute of the day is 00:00, and the final minute of the day is 23:59. To denote the conclusion of the day, midnight is frequently written as 24:00. So, suppose Thursday finishes at 24:00 tonight and Friday starts at 00:00.

When comparing the two clock systems, the 12-hour clock has certain drawbacks. It might be difficult to tell if a time is in the morning or evening, and whether 12:00 is midnight or noon. It’s also easy to figure out how long something will take if you use a 24-hour clock. For example, knowing that something runs from 10:30 to 15:30 rather than being told that it goes from 10:30am to 3:30pm makes it easier to figure out that it lasts five hours. The 24-hour clock is popular across the globe for these reasons, and was originally adopted by the US Navy in 1920, and later by the Army in 1942, during WWII.

While the 24-hour clock is the international standard for timekeeping, it is commonly referred to as “military time” in North America due to its limited use outside of the Armed Forces (and some areas of medical and emergency services, navigation, aviation, and computing where ambiguities in the time can be dangerous and cumbersome). Military time differs from conventional 24-hour clock use in a few ways, as explained below.

What is the best way to convert military time to civilian time?

Chart table to convert military time to civilian time.

Once you have the hang of it, converting military time to civilian time (and vice versa) is simple:

  • From 1 a.m. until noon, the hours are the same as in civilian timekeeping. If the hour is less than ten, just put a zero in front of it. As a result, 9:00 a.m. becomes 0900 a.m.
  • Simply subtract 1200 from a military time of 1300 or above to obtain the regular time. So, if someone says, “Meet me in room 202 at 1545,” you would just remove 1200 from 1545 to get 3:45pm. Isn’t it simple?
  • Add 1200 to any time between 1:00pm and 11:00pm to convert standard time to military time. So, to say 6:30 p.m. in military jargon, multiply 1200 by 6:30 to get 1830.

Is it 2400 or 0000 at midnight? Midnight is akin to an ace of spades. It might be very high or very low. Midnight is often referred to as 2400 or 0000.


Military Time for Writing and Speaking

Writing military time is a difficult task. When writing military time, unlike when using a 12-hour or 24-hour clock, there is no colon between the hour and the minutes.

Military time, to be precise. Always say “hundred” instead of “thousand” when speaking numbers. So “zero six hundred” or “zero six hundred hours” would be stated at 0600. (more on this below). And “one thousand” would be pronounced “ten hundred.” You just pronounce each number to express a time in minutes. Consider the following scenario:

  • 12:01 a.m., 0001: “zero zero zero one”
  • “Zero two fifteen” (0215): “zero two fifteen” (0215): “zero two fifteen” (0215): “
  • “Fifteen forty-five” at 1545 (3:45pm).

While it is common to utter “oh” for “zero” (“Be there at ‘oh six hundred!’”) in casual conversation, it is also a component of military communication procedure.

When it comes to saying “hours” after mentioning the time, it depends on whose branch of the military you’re working with. Soldiers and Airmen are more likely to say “fourteen hundred hours” when they mention 2:00pm, but Marines and Coast Guardsmen are more likely to say “fourteen hundred.” Across the branches, though, it’s common to leave off the “hours” part when chatting face-to-face and your meaning is plain, adding it only in more formal conversations and written communication when you want to make sure the message is clear.

What exactly does “Zulu” imply? You’ve undoubtedly seen movies in which combat pilots or command center commanders announce the military time, then add “Zulu” or “Z” at the end, as in “The operation will commence at 1500 Zulu.”

Because military personnel may be engaged in operations that span time zones, they need a common time zone reference to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Greenwich Mean Time (Coordinated Universal Time) is the time zone that governs the world’s clocks. “Zulu” or “Z” signifies that the time zone being addressed is Greenwich Mean Time (Coordinated Universal Time).

Other time zones are mentioned by the military, but Zulu is the most popular.

As a civilian, you’ll probably never need to refer to Zulu time, but it’s interesting to know while reading Tom Clancy books.

Soldier, you may proceed. It’s 2300 hours in Oklahoma, and it’s time to retire for the night, with the day beginning at 0630 the next day. This is the end of the lesson. Now go out and never again be befuddled by military time.

Even if you’re not in the military, do you utilize “military time”? Or do you keep to the standard 12-hour clock? Let us know in the comments.



Military time is 24-hour time. The “how to tell military time” will help you figure out what the current military time is. Reference: how to tell 24-hour time.

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