Submitted by Dyske on November 30, 2002

Five of Ten

If you say “five of ten” in the context of time, you mean 5 minutes to 10 o’clock. But, why is this? “of” is a possessive preposition, so one would think that “five of ten” would be 5 minutes that belong to 10 o’clock. That is: 5 after 10.

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http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=of

17. Before; until: five minutes of two.

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There's an older way to say that: "It lacks five minutes of ten." That is, you're five minutes short of ten o'clock. When that got shortened in everyday use, the answer to "What time is it?" became "It's five minutes of ten."

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that is why in English we say Five to ten and five past Ten not of.

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To add more confusion... O'clock is a contraction of "of the clock." Must be an Irishman involved in this time thing somewhere :-)

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