(Level B2 and above: English phrases with the word “time” – with reading, exercise, video, songs, quotes quiz and vocabulary quiz)
Written and compiled by Benedicte Gravrand, The Language House.
“Time” is one of the most-used words in the English language.
We talk about time all the time. You can lose time, find time, save time, spend time, make time, take time, give time, call time and run out of time. You can even kill time. Kill another human you will most likely do time or serve time.
Time flies, time stand stills, time is on your side and time waits for no one. You can be on time, in time, out of time, behind time, from another time and ahead of time.
So, take the time to read this blog about time and, in your own time, you will be able to talk about time, at all times.
It’s a timely subject. Timeless you might say. It’s big time. Oh, and by the way, you reading about time on the website of Le Temps.
So, what is time?
In everyday language, time is the quantity that you measure using a clock (what time is it?), an amount of time (a long time), a period in history (the Roman times) or in life (his time at university), an experience (a good time), a moment (at the time of writing), and more.
There are a great many phrases and expressions using the word “time”. Here are just a few:
30 expressions with the word “time”
- Time spent planning is time well spent – a good use of someone’s time.
- Things seem bad now but if you give it time, they might get better –wait, be patient.
- Here they are, and about time too – it’s overdue.
- They’ll be working against time to get it finished – do something quickly to finish on time.
- As an artist, he was years ahead of his time – more modern than others.
- Deal with each question separately, one at a time – separately.
- She was fun to be with at times – sometimes.
- These styles were a bit before my time – existed before I was born.
- I’m afraid we’re out of time – no more time available.
- By the time we arrived, the other guests were already there – something has already happened.
- He did time for robbery – he was in prison.
- I still think of him from time to time – sometimes.
- These days, I have all the time in the world – a lot of time available.
- We’ll have that fixed in no time – very soon, very quickly.
- In your own time, start the engine and put the car into gear – when you are ready.
- It’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt – it will definitely happen.
- I started cleaning the windows, just to kill time – do something instead of waiting.
- After the way Dave talked about me during the meeting, I wouldn’t give him the time of day – refuse to speak to someone.
- The train was on time – not late.
- Things will get better over time – gradually.
- We played cards to pass the time – do something instead of getting bored.
- Well, there’s a first time for everything – something is very strange or surprising.
- We get time and a half for working on Sundays – 50% more than the usual money that you earn.
- Let’s do it now, time is of the essence – should be done as soon as possible.
- The good thing is, time is on your side – you have a lot of time to do something.
- OK everyone, time’s up. Please turn in your spelling tests – no more time available to continue.
- Let’s do it now, time waits for no one – do something soon while the time is available.
- Time will tell whether he made the right choice – you will know in the future if something is true or right.
- You will feel better with time – gradually.
- Barbara wasted no time in spreading the gossip – to do something immediately.
Read more about time: During, while, for and since
It’s time we had a talk about time: during, while, for and since…
Time is on my side: The Rolling Stones
Fill in the gaps (1-11) in the dialogue with the correct phrase (a-k) below.
a. wasted so much time b. all the time in the world c. time is of the essence
d. about time e. against time f. waits for no one g. on our side h. on time
i. out of time j. in no time k. by the time
Running out of time
A : Well it’s (1)…….! Where have you been ? We’re working (2)……. here.
B: Really? I thought that time was (3)……..
A: No, (4)……. here. We have to finish that job (5)……..
B: We’ll have it done (6)……., don’t worry.
A: (7)……. they arrive, we’ll be (8)……..
B: But they’re not coming back from holiday before tomorrow. We have (9)…….!
A: Haven’t you heard? They’re coming back tonight at 9 pm.
B: Oh no, I wish I hadn’t (10)……..
A: You should cut that window there, as planned. Time (11)……...
1:d – 2:e – 3:g – 4:c – 5:h – 6:j – 7:k – 8:i – 9:b – 10:a – 11:f
A : Well it’s about time. Where have you been ? We’re working against time here.
B: Really? I thought that time was on our side.
A: No, time is of the essence. We have to finish that job on time.
B: We’ll have it done in no time, don’t worry.
A: By the time they arrive, we’ll be out of time.
B: But they’re not coming back from holiday before tomorrow. We have all the time in the world!
A: Haven’t you heard? They’re coming back tonight at 9 pm.
B: Oh no, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time.
A: You should cut that window there, as planned. Time waits for no one.
All words in bold are in the vocabulary quiz below.
Time by Pink Floyd
Time, perception and science
(Reading: Level C1 and above)
The way we see it, time flows, it passes, it goes in one direction, forever. But time is very much about perception. When you’re waiting for a bus, time seems to slow down. When you are focusing on something you are passionate about, time seems to move quickly. When you are asleep and dreaming, time ceases to exist.
We may, at times, go through an existential crisis when we think that we are finite (limité), or ephemeral. But in the end, time is really all about how we spend it. It is a resource and we get to choose what to do with it. It is the most valuable thing we possess. In this sense, time is indeed “money”.
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once – Albert Einstein
Scientists have given us many theories on time because they think the simple explanation that time flows forward is not enough. To them, the “arrow (flèche) of time” is not built into the nature of reality.
According to Einstein, time is relative; time passes more slowly for an object moving faster than another object. So “now” does not mean anything. His theory of general relativity describes a world of curved spacetime where everything is continuous. Spacetime is a conceptual model combining the three dimensions of space with the fourth dimension of time.
Carlo Rovelli, theoretical physicist and author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, says that time is human perception. Why can we know only the past, and not the future, he told The Guardian. There is a lack of symmetry there: we have records (or we can make inferences) of the past but not of the future. The key is the one-directional flow. Take heat for example. An ice cube dropped into a hot cup of coffee cools the coffee. And the process is not reversible: it is a one-way street.
Time is also entropy – a lack of order or organization in a system. Milk spoils at room temperature but its entropy will slow down if you put it in the fridge for example.
Entropy increases over time. According to cosmologists, the Big Bang, which (probably) started time as we know it, started at low entropy. Entropy in the universe is now higher than at the time of the Big Bang because gravity pulls everything together. Ever-increasing entropy is life, and so the passage of time, says Sean Carroll, another theoretical physicist.
But entropy, heat, past and future are qualities that belong to our superficial observation of it.
“If I observe the microscopic state of things,” writes Rovelli, “then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between ‘cause’ and ‘effect’.”
The quantum theory describes nature in terms of atoms and subatomic particles. Theoretical physics tries to make the quantum theory and the theory of general relativity work together. One answer, according to Rovelli, is the loop theory, in which spacetime itself is understood to be granular (broken into separate items), a fine structure woven from loops.
In this video, Sean Carroll explains time:
The Passage of Time and the Meaning of Life
What is time? What is humankind’s role in the universe? For much of human history, these questions have been the province of religion and philosophy. What answers can science provide?
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Quiz: Quotes about time
As Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev said, “Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.”
Match these quotes with their author:
- You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
- Time moves in one direction, memory in another.
- Tough times never last but tough people do.
- It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.
- Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
- Lost time is never found again.
- If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.
- Elizabeth Taylor, American actress
- Robert H. Schuller, American Christian televangelist
- Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States
- Abraham Lincoln, 19th U.S. president
- Bruce Lee, Chinese American martial artist
- William Gibson, American-Canadian speculative fiction writer
- William Penn, 17th/18th English writer and religious thinker
1:d – 2:f – 3:b – 4:a – 5:g – 6:c – 7:e
Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time (with lyrics)
Take the vocabulary time quiz
Match each word with its respective definition.
a. to appear to be something, or to appear to have a particular quality
b. a particular way of understanding or thinking about something
c. to move forward very slowly
d. to move continuously in one direction
e. quickly or immediately
f. if time or a period of time passes, it happens and comes to an end
g. to stop happening or continuing
1:d – 2:f – 3:b – 4:a – 5:g – 6:c – 7:e
- At once
a. having a particular quality when compared with something else
b. to make clothes or other material by weaving cloth
c. the thing that will do most to help you to achieve something (in this context)
d. an organized attempt by thieves to steal something
e. At the same time (in this context)
f. something that you can use to help you to achieve something, especially in your work or study
g. a round shape or curve made by a line curling back towards itself
8:f – 9:d – 10:e – 11:a – 12:b – 13:g – 14:c
a. a change that is produced in one person or thing by another
b. to disappear in a sudden and mysterious way
c. to trick someone by making them believe something that is not true
d. a subject that someone knows about or is responsible for (in this context)
e. able to return or be changed to a previous state
f. strong and able to deal with difficult situations or pain
15:e – 16:b – 17:d – 18:c – 19:f – 20:a