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

searcher April 11, 2003, 12:22am

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

jeff March 19, 2003, 5:08am

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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."

tnh March 17, 2003, 10:55pm

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17. Before; until: five minutes of two.

yoinkmydanish December 10, 2002, 1:28pm

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