I know четверть часа means 15 minutes, I suppose it figures into the answer.

  • 3
    In the army, one would say ноль пять сорок пять or семнадцать сорок пять.
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 27, 2012 at 17:12

5 Answers 5


Here are the options (in order of frequency of use):

  • Без четверти шесть
  • Без пятнадцати (минут) шесть
  • Сорок пять минут шестого
  • 2
    I think you should put "Без четверти шесть" to the bottom of your list since it is the least used from these three in my opinion.
    – user194076
    Oct 28, 2012 at 2:40
  • 4
    @user194076 I disagree. In fact, in a normal conversation, it is the most commonly used option.
    – Aleks G
    Oct 28, 2012 at 17:09
  • 10
    @LawrenceDeSouza in addition, you could say пять сорок пять.
    – Aleks G
    Oct 28, 2012 at 17:09
  • 8
    I was taught (and it of course may depend on the region of Russia) that сорок пять минут шестого is not a correct usage. N минут шестого can be used only if N is up to 25. For 30 min - пол-шестого is used. After that без (60-N) минут шесть is used. :-)
    – farfareast
    Oct 28, 2012 at 20:32
  • 2
    @farfareast, you've been taught right from the formal point of view. In everyday live native speakers not always keep in mind all rules they should follow )))
    – shabunc
    Oct 28, 2012 at 20:36

00:00 - полночь (midnight)

00:05 - пять минут первого (but people will sooner tell you "it's midnight")

00:15 - пятнадцать минут первого (actually, try to notice that people often ask you "what time is it?" and when you look at your watch, it's almost always 15 minutes! Wooo!)

00:25 - двадцать пять минут первого (but people would sooner tell you "it's half past midnight")

00:30 - половина первого / полпервого ("it's half past midnight" from roughly 00:26 to 00:34)

00:40 - сорок минут первого / без двадцати час (60 minus 40, yeah!)

00:45 - без пятнадцати час / без четверти час (fifteen, or a quarter)

00:50 - без десяти час (simple and clear)

00:59 - час ночи (yeah, people will tell you as if it is 01:00 already. Of course, some would tell you smth like "без минуты час", but whatever... Also, alothough, it's clear that 00:59 is night time, still we say "ночи" to separate it from 12:59 and 01:00 PM).

When you enlighten other people of what time it is, you can always say it's XX:XX, if the first number is more than zero:

01:20 - час двадцать

04:45 - четыре сорок пять

11:15 - одиннадцать пятнадцать

17:50 - семнадцать

It is unbelievably normal. Or you can also use it with the patterns I've written above.

The only thing you should remember - never use the XX:XX pattern when it's 00:XX - use only the general patterns above.


I would put it in another order:

  • Без пятнадцати (минут) шесть
  • Без четверти шесть
  • Сорок пять (минут) шестого

Also, since digital clocks are everywhere right now, the following is being used quite often recently:

  • пять сорок пять
  • семнадцать сорок пять

However, these froms do not exactly match the original question

  • As has been discussed in comments on other answers, the order of usage depends on the geographical area and your background. Other than that, please refrain from repeating existing answers unless you are expanding or explaining them.
    – Aleks G
    Nov 8, 2012 at 11:12
  • Welcome to Russian Language and Usage Beta! While probably being legit, your answer does not seem to add to the answers given by the other users. Invest some time in the site and you will gain sufficient privileges to upvote answers you like, which is our way of saying "thank you, I like this answer, I agree with it". Duplicate answers will be removed.
    – Olga
    Nov 11, 2012 at 9:09

To illustrate the usage, here's a children's poem by Valentin Berestov:

Приятная весть. 

 -Без четверти шесть!
 Без пятнадцати шесть!
 Хотите услышать 
 Приятную весть?

 -Так что же случилось 
 Без четверти шесть?
 Какая такая 
 Приятная весть?

 -А то, что я сам, 
 Понимаете, САМ, 
 Умею часы 
 Узнавать по часам.

 -Ты прав. Так и есть, 
 Без пятнадцати шесть!
 Спасибо тебе 
 За приятную весть!

Note that 'at a quarter to six' is also said "без четверти шесть"; no extra preposition here - unlike "в шесть часов", "в четверть шестого" ('at a quarter past five') - because there is already one preposition present, "без".


"Без четверти шесть" mentioned above is practically never used in Russian. Most people say "Без пятнадцати (минут) шесть" or "пять сорок пять" is they prefer to use digital watch-style notation.

  • If you search in ruscorpora.ru/search-main.html, you'll see that "без четверти" is seen in 220 documents and "без пятнадцати" is seen only in 65 documents. This statistics makes your answer incorrect.
    – Olga
    Nov 7, 2012 at 17:00
  • this is a very strange statement for one who claims to know Russian.
    – shabunc
    Nov 7, 2012 at 18:49
  • 1
    Olga, let me google it for you: без четверти шесть is found 880 000 000 times; без пятнадцати шесть is found 2 700 000 000 times. This shows that the latter option is three times more frequently used than the first one
    – asv
    Nov 17, 2012 at 17:20

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