Let's use 3:15 and 2:45 for our examples.

In English you can say a quarter past/to three.

In Chinese you can use 一刻, 3点(差)一刻

In both English and Chinese you can use the ''quarter'' version as well as stating the minutes explicitly.

It seems that 一刻 (いっこく) used to exist in Japanese but has fallen out of recognition. In other words a Japanese person wouldn't even understand you if you said 3:15 , 3時一刻 , 3じいっこく , but they would understand once you explained it to them and be like ''we don't say it that way''.

Can anyone confirm this ?

How would 一刻 have been used ? And how would the 差 have worked ?


In modern Japanese, we say 3時15分前 (さんじじゅうごふんまえ; 2:45) and 3時15分過ぎ (さんじじゅうごふんすぎ; 3:15). The latter is not very common because it's obviously redundant. There is no single word that can express 15 minutes.

刻【こく】 was indeed an old unit of time with several different definitions, but it usually corresponded to roughly 30 minutes in Japan. According to Wikipedia it never meant 15 minutes in Japan (although 1刻 was 14.4 minutes according to one rare definition used by some scholars). Either way, this unit is completely obsolete now. 3時一刻 makes no sense to me. See: .

  • How common would you say 3時15分前 was compared to 2時45分? I ask because this is my first time seeing the former expression. – user3856370 May 10 '20 at 14:08

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