You may have heard the expression ‘at 15 after’ or some other variation with a different number in it. Without more context, this could mean so many things or even refer to a movie or book title. So what does ‘at 15 after’ mean?
‘At 15 after’ refers to the number of minutes past a certain time, generally on the hour. If the hour isn’t specified, you can normally assume that the person who said it means the most recent or upcoming o’clock time, such as four o’clock or eight o’clock.
We’ll look at this phrase and explore what it means as well as consider some other usages of it so that you can fully understand what someone means when they say this.
Why Do People Say ‘At 15 After’?
This phrase is used because it’s easy to say and once you understand the structure, it’s also a very quick way to inform people of a scheduled meeting time or other important time without having to spell out all the information.
The reason this phrase works well is that there are some hidden agreements or unwritten rules on the structure of language that we just pick up on as we get better at a language.
So although nobody explicitly mentions the exact time from which the 15 minutes runs from, such as 10 o’clock, the understanding is that the listener has to read between the lines or understand the context from when that 15 minutes starts.
When we examine it more closely, you’re unlikely to find many examples that don’t mention the hour but then assume that the 15 minutes (or whatever timespan that is chosen) won’t start from the hour.
Now, this is not always the case if there is some context.
For example, if you have a task that needs to be started after another task, and you’re already talking about this subject, then when someone says ‘at 15 after’, they’re more likely referring to starting the second task 15 minutes after the first task is finished.
Also, as the default time unit is minutes, if someone means a different time unit, they’ll usually need to state it clearly. So, someone may say ‘at 15 days after’ to talk about a longer interval.
The basics then are that the word ‘at’ operates to pinpoint the time in the future, whereas the word ‘after’ shows what this pinpointed time is relative to. This makes it a very flexible and useful phrase that can not only be used for a time, but for other information sharing.
There are even instances of this phrase in pop culture, such as the classic supermarionation series Thunderbirds, which had an episode called 30 Minutes After Noon, with the main plot device being a bomb that will explode at 12:30, of course being ‘at 30 minutes after.
Here we see the necessity to add the word ‘noon’ here, to make it clear what the time unit is, as from just the title alone, we don’t have any reference to a time.