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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Time On Your Hands? Idioms of Time

Time is very important in North America. We spend a lot of time thinking about time, talking about time, and even losing track of time, especially if we are having a good time. Most us don't have enough time to do the things we'd like to do and wish we had more spare time.  Instead of feeling like we have a lot of time on our hands, we frequently complain that we're out of time, or pressed for time.

If you have spent any time with North Americans, you may have noticed just how many expressions and idioms we have that use the word "time" or that relate to time in one way or another. It's worth your time to learn a few of them.  Every time you use one of these expressions, you'll sound more fluent and natural, so  it won't be a waste of your time to  put in the time practicing how to use them in conversation.  

Expressions of Time: 
time on your hands: When you have time on your hands, you are not busy. You have some free time and are available to do something. Sometimes we say people have too much time on their hands.
Example: " Let me help you with your project. I've finished all my work and I have some time on my hands." 

spare time: The expression "spare time" means the same thing as "free time." This is the time when we are not busy with school, work, or doing chores. 

Example: In my spare time, I enjoy reading books, or working in my garden. 

to save time:
We save time when we do something the fast way instead of the usual way. 
Example:  "It will take us an hour to walk home. Let's save time and take the bus". 

time for a change It is time for a change when you need to stop doing what you are doing and do some thing else with your life.

Example:You've been working at that company for ten years. It's time for a  change.

Time flies::
We say time flies when we want to say time passes surprisingly quickly.  We are surprised that so much time         
" I can't believe your daughter is in university. How time flies"   "I never seem to finish my work. The time just flies."  
"Time flies when you're having fun." is one of the most commonly used expressions in English. 

to lose track of time: 
We lose track of time when we are unaware of what time it is because we are too busy doing something else.
Examples: I always lose track of time when I'm on the the computer. I even forget to eat. 
I'm sorry I was late for dinner.  I was so busy at work that I completely lost track of time

it's about time:
The expression "it's about time" means " Finally something you wanted to happen, or expected to happen as happened. You are happy about it.    

Example: It's about time  you two got married! You've been together for 10 years. 

on time: 
Being on time means not being late. You arrive at the right time.
Example: Most of my students arrive on time for their classes, but a few come in late. 

Run out of time
You have run out of time when there is no time left to finish the activity you are doing. We frequently use the expression  you're running out of time when we want to warn people that there is very little time left to finish something.
Example:  I'm sorry , we've run out of time on the exam. Please hand in your papers.

to make time:
We make time when we find time in our busy schedule to do something. We make sure we are not doing anything else at that time. 

Example:My boss said he would make time to see me about my proposal at four o'clock.

time is money:
This is a famous expression that means your time is very valuable,                               

 Example:    Let's finish this meeting as quickly as possible. Time is money. I'm a busy an and I have a lot to do today.

behind the times:
If you are behind the times, you are old fashioned, not modern. You don't think or behave the way most people do now.  

Example:  My dad is completely behind the times. He still listens to the Beatles. 

in the nick of time:
You are in the nick of time when you do something just before it is too late.  

Example:  We got to the departure gate for our flight just in the nick of time. The plane was about to take off without us. 
to kill time 
When we kill time, we do something that is not very interesting or important just to pass the time while we are waiting for something more interesting to do. We often do this while we are waiting for something to happen.

Example:   The movie doesn't start for another hour. Why don't we kill time by doing some window shopping.

to hit the big time: You hit the big time when you become unusually successful. rich or famous..

Example:My friend John used to be a waiter, but he finally got a job in a successful movie and now he's hit the big time. He's going to be star. 

to be pressed for time: You are pressed for time when you don't have much time to do something You are in a hurry.

Example: I can only talk to you for a few minutes because I'm pressed for time. I need to be at the doctor's office by four o'clock. 

to make up for lost time: We make up for lost time when we feel we have wasted time and need to hurry in order to achieve or finish something.

Examples: They  married late, but made up for lost time by having children right away.
                    We're behind schedule. We'll have to make up for lost time by working late. 

to have the time of one's life: 
You have the time of your life when you have a fantastic experience.
Example: My children had the time of their lives when we went to Disneyland

for the time being: This means  temporarily, for the present moment. 

Example: We have no extra money, so for the time being, we can't move to a nicer apartment.

to live on borrowed time:
This expression means you live a dangerous lifestyle, or do things that are dangerous to your  heal
Example:   " People who smoke a lot are just living on borrowed time. They could get cancer any time.  . 

a waste of time:
We say something is a waste of time, or that we waste time if we don't spend our time on something useful. 

Example:  Stop wasting time playing those video games. It's time to do your homework.

to lose time: 
We use this expression to say we spent too much time doing something, so we couldn't finish something else, 

Example:  We lost time trying to find a colour that matched the house, so now we’re behind schedule..

from time to time: This expression means occasionally, once in a while.

Example:  I like to get together with my friends from time to time and go out for a drink.

the time is right:
We say the time is right when it is a good time to do something. 
Example: The time is right to invest in a house because real estate prices are low now.

time off: 
This is a time when we don't have to work.

Example: I asked my boss for some time off so that I could pick up my mother up at the airport.

Put in time: 
When you put in time, you spend a lot of time doing something important.

Example: He is such a good pianist because he puts in the time practicing. 
                The house looks beautiful after all that time you put in renovating it.

Worth one's Time: 
We use the expression it's worth your time when we want to say you won't be sorry, or you won't regret it. You will be get some benepfit from spending your time this way.

Example: If you want to learn more abouot what is going on arond the world, it's worth your time to read the newspaper or watch the news on TV.  

Time Out:
When you take time out, you pause, or stop from doing something( such as work, or a sport to have a break.

Example:  When the score in the hockey game was tied, the coach called for a "time out" in order to talk to his players. 

When the time is ripe:
 We say "when the time is ripe" when we mean something will happen at the correct, or time that it should happen.

Example: I told my daughter to stop worrying about getting a boyfriend and that she would find one when the time was ripe

Practice with an online quiz    
 Idioms of Time Quiz 1 

Can you make your own sentences or questions with some of these idioms?     
 Write a few on the comments page.


  1. Thanks for the useful expressions & keep up the good work.


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