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.

Grades 4-8 Comprehensive Vocabulary

Comprehensive Vocabulary

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. 


For full-year vocabulary programs which include multiple meaning words (L.4.a.), Greek and Latin morphology with Morphology Walls (L.4.a.), figures of speech (L.5.a.), words with special relationships (L.5.b.), words with connotative meanings (L.5.c.), and academic language words (L.6.0), check out the assessment-based grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Comprehensive Vocabulary.

Get the Grades 4,5,6,7,8 Vocabulary Sequence of Instruction FREE Resource:

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