Having the time of your life: phrases with time

barkey / iStock / Getty Images Plus

by Liz Walter

In my last post, I mentioned that the word ‘time’ is the most common noun in English. This is partly because there are so many phrases which contain the word. This post looks at some common and useful examples.

If you say that it’s time to do something or it’s time for something, you mean that it should happen now:

It’s time to start the meeting.

It’s time for lunch.

If something takes a long time, you need a lot of time to do it:

It takes a long time to become a doctor.

If someone or something does something all the time, they do it a lot. We often use this phrase for things we find annoying:

My laptop keeps crashing all the time.

If something happens or if you do something on time, it happens at the correct time, and if you do something in time, you do it before it is too late:

The train arrived on time. We ran all the way to the station and got there just in time.

If you take your time, you do something slowly and often carefully:

The quiz is difficult, so take your time and think about the answers.

If you say that something happens from time to time, you mean that it happens sometimes – not very often, but not very rarely either. You can also say that it happens at times:

I have to travel abroad from time to time.

Her job can be very stressful at times.

Moving to some slightly more advanced phrases now, if you say that something is just/only a matter of time, you mean that it will certainly happen at some point in the future:

It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously injured on that road.

If you have time on your hands, you don’t have enough to do. We often talk about people having too much time on their hands, when we disapprove of something unimportant they are doing:

Anyone who irons their sheets clearly has too much time on their hands.

If you have time to kill, you have nothing to do for a period of time. We often use this idiom to talk about things we do to fill that time. Sometimes we use a specific period of time instead of the word ‘time’:

I had two hours to kill while I waited for Tom, so I went to the art gallery.

There are many other phrases with ‘time’ – you may have your own favourites. I will end with a positive one – if you are having the time of your life, you are enjoying yourself very much indeed. 

47 thoughts on “Having the time of your life: phrases with time

  1. Mujahed Jadallah

    I liked this post very much indeed.

    Two of my favourite ‘time’ phrases are “time allowing,” that means ‘if time allows it’, and “doing time” which has the same meaning as ‘doing a stretch’ – another idiom that refers to the condition of serving a sentence in jail.

  2. Alexandre

    Hi Liz.
    Very interesting article, as usual.

    My favourite one is: “Make up the time”
    I spent an hour reading this article, so I won’t finish my job early today, due to this I am going to make up the time tomorrow.

    This is obviously illustrative.

    1. Adam

      Hi Alexander, I didn’t really understand the meaning of make up the time. Did you want to say you’ll manage the time to do something because you haven’t got enough actually?

  3. Лысый Родион

    Very usefull post (but not for Russian speaking people since we share almost word for word expression about time) but anyway thanks for this titanic work albeit my favorite idiomatic expression about time got missed 😃😃😃😃😃😃

  4. Thúy

    Oh, great now l can understand the difference between `on time´ and `in time´. Thank you very much. Wish more useful posts from you!❤

    1. Briki

      Absolutely, there is risk to confuse ‘in time” and ‘on time’ .It seems that they have the same meaning.I am trying to explain academically to mitigate the meaning : whereas ‘on time ‘ is used compared to standard -time.For example the project has finished on time or the order was delivered on time.But in time doesn’t refer necessarily to a standard :for example ‘I got there in time’…

  5. Arturo Leo

    We sometimes waste our time without looking forward to be less ignorant, since it is better than looking forward to study to know “more”, a goal will never achieve. Thanks for all your interesting posts.

  6. Erneste BUGABO

    Thank you! This is a wonderful opportunity to understand clearly the different expression used with the word time. So, I appreciate you so much! be blessed

  7. Wali ahmed

    Very useful!! Actually i was finding the proverb “from time to time” but i have found alot from here.sorry for my bad English.thanks!!

  8. Alson

    Thank you ever so much indeed, this is very helpful. Now I can use phrases “in time” and “on time” correctly, and that opened my mind.

  9. Aswathi C A

    One more phrase to the list- ‘Time is running out’ used to say there is not much time left to do something. Example:I ran out of time before I could finish my exam. Thanks Liz for the wonderful post. I really appreciate your ‘taking the time’ for writing these amazing piece of articles.

  10. comfortablynumb

    You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today. But then one day you find ten years behind you. No-one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun!!!

  11. comfortablynumb

    You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today. But then one day you find ten years that got behind you. No-one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun!!!

  12. Julius

    Nice article! I got much new knowledges about ‘time’ from it. Thank you. I hopefully can see some articles like this. When you have time to kill, Please post an another one here.

    1. Liz Walter

      Thank you, Julius. Just click on my name and you will find many posts like this. I also recommend my colleague Kate Woodford’s posts to you.

  13. Briki

    Very attractive and helpful site to visit regularly, think about words and increase my knowledge of the rich lexical resources of English language.

  14. Mateusz

    Dear Liz Walter,

    Having read the article and the comments with great interest, may I add that ‘timeless’ is such a great comment here, in relation to your work.
    Moveover, there are some related phrases, which spring to mind, e.g. ‘time out of mind’ is an interesting one. J.R.R. Tolkien, seemingly, used it as ‘longer than anyone could remember’ (‘The Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind’ ). Strangley enough, the title of the movie (2015 “Time out of mind”), with Richard Gere, was translated into Polish as ‘outside of time/timeless/’.
    Another memorable quote is one by Aldous Huxley, who wrote – ‘There was no time, only tempo.’ – of a timeless moment, in his timeless novel ‘Island’.
    George Carlin has also made a great contribution in this field with his stand up show in the 70’s (showing how the abstract noun ‘time’ is used in a wide range of various – equally abstract ways- in English)

    Forever thankful for the your great posts,
    Mateusz Pyziak

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