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When Russians tell what time it is, they often add "дня" ("of the day"), "вечера" ("of the evening"), "ночи" ("of the night"), or "утра" ("of the morning"):

Я проснулась в три часа ночи. (Literally: I woke up at three o'clock of the night.)

Я пришла в университет в полвосьмого утра. (Literally: I came to the university at half to eight of the morning.)

Перерыв заканчивается в три часа дня. (Literally: The break ends at three o'clock of the day.)

Вечеринка началась в пол-одиннадцатого вечера. (Literally: The party started at half to eleven of the evening.)

My question is this: Based on the linguistic convention in the Russian language, how long is the night?

For the purpose of this question, a time is considered to belong to the night if Russians add "ночи" rather than "утра, "дня," or "вечера" after it. For example, 2:39am belongs to the night because Russians say, "Я добралась домой в 2:39 ночи."

I am asking because I am unsure exactly where the boundaries of the night are in the Russian language.

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    The question "Как различить время суток" on "Русский Язык" SE is identical to this one. – tum_ Sep 3 '19 at 22:06
  • As for telling the exact time by the clock, I use ночи for the time from midnight (12 [часов] ночи) till 3 a.m. (3 часa ночи), after that it becomes утра, like 3:30 a.m. is полчетвёртого утра. And I think 11 p.m. to midnight is also ночи. But that's subjective, so I'll leave it here as a commentary. – Yellow Sky Sep 3 '19 at 22:26
  • Daytime perception can shift based on the general and specific occupation of a person. There is, for example, a New Year's joke "Какая сволочь звонит в 15 часов утра?" ("What kind of an asshole would wake me up at fifteen hundred AM?") meaning that people usually staying up extra-late on the New Year's Eve and consider morning to come very late the next day. Or take a fisherman in June at Black Sea: 4 am (dawn) is a morning fishing time for them, while 3 am could be time to wake up and it can be the beginning of morning, while other people there would think of it as a middle-of-the-night. – DK. Sep 4 '19 at 2:35
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"Как различить время суток" is indeed very informative (thanks @tum_).

В русском языке чёткой границы нет. Примерное разделение выглядит так:

    Утро от 4-5 часов до 11-12.
    День от 11-12 часов до 15-16.
    Вечер от 15-16 часов до 23-24.
    Ночь от 23-24 часов до 4-5.

I would like to add a little bit about the "gray area" when time of the day is transitioning. This area is indeed gray, because in typical Russian latitudes daytime variations can be significant throughout the year. So, in summer, 16:00 is undoubtedly "4 часа дня", while in winter it is "4 часа вечера". Likewise, in summer 4:00 is "4 часа утра", and in winter it's "4 часа ночи".

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    I think there's a difference between definitions of утро/день/вечер/ночь and the actual usage of expressions like 3 часа ночи and 4 часа утра. In my observation, people never care about winter or summer when they say 4 часа утра. If one says 4 часа ночи, it is rather about negative emotions from early awakening, while in case of scheduled getting up it would be definitely 4 часа утра, independently of season. – Alex_ander Sep 4 '19 at 5:39
  • @Alex_ander You are mostly correct, but then, if someone is awaken at 4AM and it's already bright outside, he or she is more likely to call it "4 часа утра". – Alexander Sep 4 '19 at 16:13
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When I was little, in my family and community it was pretty well established to be 12am-4am ночь, 4am-12pm утро, 12pm-4pm день, 4pm-12am вечер. Plus полночь, полдень around 12 am or pm.

Then when I started traveling and meeting other people I realized it's not really set in stone at all, but as a general guide if you use the terms for the above periods of the day, you won't be wrong.

You can also deliberately shift the term for emphasis or comic effect. Уже 10 ночи, спать пора!

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