A photo of a newspaper showing a paragraph beginning with 当地时间25日17时15分左右


I was reading a newspaper, and stumbled upon the above. I'm puzzled as to why someone would state a time as precisely as 25日17时15分 then add 左右 (= "approximately") afterwards. I'm wondering if the author is just exceptionally pedantic, or if there's an actual reason to add 左右 I'm missing.

Question: Why add 左右 to the precisely stated time 25日17时15分左右?

  • 2
    Personally, I would read the sentence's intent as 下午五點一刻左右 (About quarter-past five in the afternoon).
    – dROOOze
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 12:58
  • 1
    The use of Arabic numerals down to the nearest minute makes it feel precise. Conversely, no one would doubt the logicality / necessity of adding 左右 after 下午五時 or 下午五時半 because they are 'cruder' expressions of time. (They have a larger, more perceptible maximum absolute error, so to speak.) Personally, I would consider the quoted sentence redundant, somewhat ill-constructed (病句).
    – L Parker
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 13:06
  • This is bad writing/reporting. Because the reporter is reporting a future activity that will take place at a defined/precise time. The approximation (左右) is appropriate if reporting an activity that was completed in the past, or in the future but without giving the exact time (see example in dROOOze's comment).
    – r13
    Commented Apr 27, 2021 at 23:29
  • Simply put, just to make it less precise. Is it really 15 after 5? Could it be 14 or 13 after 5? Maybe 16,17 after 5?
    – joehua
    Commented Apr 29, 2021 at 0:03
  • I would take it like we see in English-language articles or reports. I've even seen English usage like "approximately 12:17"; a specific time is reported (such as based on eyewitness accounts), but there is the high likelihood the incident did not occur at exactly 12:17. Having a precise value that is then given a range of uncertainty is better than just an imprecise value. For example, saying something has a mass of 12.5g+/-1g is better than saying 13g (which doesn't have the correct central value, though the uncertainty is still 1g) and better than 12.5g, which gives too little uncertainty. Commented May 10, 2021 at 15:17

4 Answers 4


It just means "around".

In this case 左右 applies to the preceding "17时15分", to express that the time is not exact. The writer notes that there is a margin of error or uncertainty.


Today around 17:15 local time

The English translation also conveys the same meaning. You state a time, 5:15 PM, but also warn readers that it may be imprecise up to a certain degree.


There is nothing wrong they put it there, but not necessary. The time is already precise enough without using '左右‘, since readers won't care about seconds. Readers don't care about minutes or hours in these kind of news I would say. Normally people would say '17时左右'(around 17 o'clock), which is already good enough.


17时15分左右 means it could be 17时16分, 17时14分,etc. The author are unsure about the exact minute in this case. But he knows it's around 15.


It means “around 17:15”, which is ranged from 17:10 to 17:20.

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