Monday, 11 June 2012


Evening in Modica, Sicily

In Italy people usually start saying "Good evening" instead of "Good afternoon" after siesta, so this can be as early as 3.30 pm.  In Britain, however, we do not say "Good evening" until at least 5pm and usually a little later, perhaps between 5.30 and 6 pm.  We go on saying "Good evening" until we are parting from someone for the rest of the night or are going to bed, when we say, "Goodnight".

Now let's clear up one or two other misconceptions as well:  The afternoon officially begins at 12.00 midday so you can say "Good afternoon" after that time until ... the evening!

12 am means 12 o'clock at night as the new day begins then.  The translator of this notice in Italy has made  a mistake as there is no postal collection at midnight in this town!

We do not say "ante meridiem" or "post meridiem" when we are talking about time.  We might say "a.m." or "p.m." but usually it is obvious whether we mean morning, afternoon or evening so we leave these abbreviations out.  We do not use the 24-hour-clock in conversation but it is used in announcements or notices about timetables.  So we would say, "See you at two" and not, "See you at fourteen" or "fourteen hundred" to confirm a meeting at 2pm.

And now, for romantic students of English everywhere....

Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney - Some Enchanted Evening

Note:  Summer evenings are long in Britain, as it can be light until around 10 pm.  That's why, if you were watching the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert last Monday evening, you didn't see anything happening in the dark until nearly the end!

Robbie Williams and the Coldstream Guards open the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert, 4.6.2012, 7.30 pm:


  1. Interesting site. :)
    But in Italy we don't say "buona sera" till past 17:00, and we tend to say "buon giorno" even in the afternoon.
    Happy summer. :)

  2. Hi, Kia and thanks. Well, I've lived here in Modica for seven years and I assure you everyone says "Buona sera" at 3.30 pm or even earlier! I've found this in other parts of Italy, too.