English Time Idioms

Idiomatic Expressions for Time

Time Idioms

Every language has its own idioms. Idioms are non-literal expressions used by a certain language group. Idioms can be words, phrases, or clauses.

When I was working toward my degree at the University of Southern California, I took a semester off to study at the National University of Mexico in Mexico City. I stayed in a dormitory close to campus with two Mexican roommates. Spanish immersion was my goal.

Despite having six years of middle school and high school Spanish and two college courses, I was shocked that I only understood about half of what my roommates said. I tended to understand my college professors more. Both roommates and professors seemed to understand most of what I was saying. What was going on, I wondered?

It took me a while to figure things out. Almost half of my roommates’ informal speech consisted of informal idiomatic expressions. My professors used more formal academic language with plenty of Greek and Latin morphemes (meaning-based prefixes, roots, and suffixes) and fewer idioms. Of course we learned formal Spanish and very few idioms back in middle school, high school, and college.

Most of my language acquisition that semester was learning Spanish idioms. Of course, native Spanish speakers have the same trouble with idioms when learning English.

In English, we use two forms of idioms: figurative and prepositional. A figurative idiom (or idiomatic expression) uses words or ideas which mean something different than their usual literal meanings.

The figurative idiom has a hidden meaning, known only to English speakers. For example, both British and American English uses the idiomatic expression, let the cat out of the bag, to indicate sharing a secret.

The prepositional idiom is a preposition that is not usually used in relation to its object. For example, both British and American English uses the idiomatic expression, through the door, to indicate opening a door and walking in or out of a room.

Time Idioms

For some time, idiomatic expressions involving time have fascinated me. Following is a song, packed with time idioms and their definitions. Seeing how these time idioms are used in context and in relationship to one another helps the reader (and listener) understand each idiom more so than a simple definition or sentence example.

Time © 2010 Mark Pennington All Rights Reserved

1. Time‒time is on your side. You have enough time to accomplish what you wish to do. 

Time can be your friend Waiting may be to your advantage.

sometimes. In some instances, but not always.

But time‒time is money. Time is valuable and costly.

Time can slip away

or fly. Time can be wasted or misused.



Make the most of what you have today.

Time‒it’s a matter of time. Given enough time, people will understand.

2. Time‒Time will heal all wounds. People will feel better after a certain amount of time.

You get over anything

in time. People will forgive after a certain period of time.

Time‒time waits for no one. No one has more time than another.

Time will tell

the truth or lie. Truth or lies will be made clear over a period of time.


Don’t let time control you

or limit what you do. Don’t let age or circumstance keep you from your goals.

Don’t let it steal your plans

Your time is in God’s hands. God controls the past, present, and future.

3. Time‒Time is precious. Time is of limited supply.

You can run out

of time. Not all can be accomplished within given times.

Time‒time is fleeting. Time can seem to pass by quickly.

The clock keeps ticking Time does not slow down.

time after time. Time is consistent.

Play the song as you read the lyrics. 



Pennington Publishing’s Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit includes 56 worksheets, along with vocabulary study guides, and biweekly unit tests to help your students collaboratively practice and master these Common Core Standards:

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Here’s how your students will master these standards in the Vocabulary Worksheets:

Multiple Meaning Words

Students practice grade-level homonyms (same spelling and sound) in context clue sentences which show the different meanings and function (part of speech) for each word.

Greek and Latin Word Parts

Three criteria were applied to choose the grade-level prefixes, roots, and suffixes:

1. Frequency research 2. Utility for grade-level Tier 2 words 3. Pairing

Each odd-numbered vocabulary worksheet pairs a Greek or Latin prefix-root or root-suffix combination to enhance memorization and to demonstrate utility of the Greek and Latin word parts. For example, pre (before) is paired with view (to see). Students use these combinations to make educated guesses about the meaning of the whole word. This word analysis is critical to teaching students how to problem-solve the meanings of unknown words.

Language Resources

Students look up the Greek and Latin whole word in a dictionary (print or online) to compare and contrast their educated guesses to the denotative definition of the word. Students divide the vocabulary word into syl/la/bles, mark its primary áccent, list its part of speech, and write its primary definition.

Additionally, students write synonyms, antonyms, or inflected forms of the word, using either the dictionary or thesaurus (print or online). This activity helps students develop a more precise understanding of the word.

Figures of Speech

Students learn a variety of figures of speech (non-literal expression used by a certain group of people). The Standards assign specific types of figures of speech to each grade level. Students must interpret sentences which use the figures of speech on the biweekly unit tests.

Word Relationships

Students use context clue strategies to figure out the different meanings of homonyms in our Multiple Meaning Words section. In the Word Relationships section, students must apply context clues strategies to show the different meanings of word pairs. The program’s S.A.L.E. Context Clues Strategies will help students problem-solve the meanings of unknown words in their reading.

Students practice these context clue strategies by learning the categories of word relationships. For example, the vocabulary words, infection to diagnosis, indicate a problem to solution word relationship category.

Connotations: Shades of Meaning

Students learn two new grade-level vocabulary words which have similar denotativemeanings, but different connotative meanings. From the provided definitions, students write these new words on a semantic spectrum to fit in with two similar words, which most of your students will already know. For example, the two new words, abundant and scarce would fit in with the already known words, plentiful and rare in this semantic order: abundant–plentiful–scarce–rare.

Academic Language

The Common Core authors state that Tier 2 words (academic vocabulary) should be the focus of vocabulary instruction. Many of these words will be discovered and learned implicitly or explicitly in the context of challenging reading, using appropriately leveled independent reading, such as grade-level class novels, and learning specific reading strategies, such as close reading with shorter, focused text.

However, direct instruction of high utility and high frequency academic vocabulary is certainly worthwhile. The Academic Language section of the vocabulary worksheets provides two grade-level words from the research-based Academic Word List. Students use the Frayer model four square (definition, synonym, antonym, and example-characteristic-picture) method to learn these words. The Common Core authors and reading specialists (like me) refer to this process as learning vocabulary with depth of instruction.

Vocabulary Study Guides

Vocabulary study guides are provided for each of the weekly paired lessons for whole-class review, vocabulary games, and individual practice. Print back-to-back and have students fold to study.

Vocabulary Tests

Bi-weekly Vocabulary Tests assess both memorization and application. The first section of each test is simple matching. The second section of each test requires students to apply the vocabulary in the writing context. Answers follow.

Syllable Blending, Syllable Worksheets, and Derivatives Worksheets

Whole class syllable blending “openers” will help your students learn the rules of structural analysis, including proper pronunciation, syllable division, accent placement, and derivatives. Each “opener” includes a Syllable Worksheet and a Derivatives Worksheet for individual practice. Answers follow.

Context Clues Strategies

Students learn the FP’S BAG SALE approach to learning the meanings of unknown words through surrounding context clues. Context clue worksheets will help students master the SALE Context Clue Strategies.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use Resources

Greek and Latin word parts lists, vocabulary review games, vocabulary steps, and semantic spectrums provide additional vocabulary instructional resources.

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits

Students who complete each of the Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4–8 grade-level programs will have practiced and learned much of the Academic Word Corpus and all of the skills of vocabulary acquisition. These students will have gained a comprehensive understanding of academic language and will be well-equipped to apply the skills of context clues strategies and structural analysis to read well and write with precision.

Each of the grade 4-8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit programs will help you coordinate seamless, Standards-based vocabulary instruction at your school. Check out the comprehensive CCSS Grades 4−8 Vocabulary Scope and Sequence.

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