Time Idioms

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In the last post, we talked about saying and writing the date in English, and last week on the Civics, Culture, and Community blog, there was a post about American time. Let’s continue talking about time by learning six idioms related to time.

How to Learn Idioms

Idioms are expressions – groups of words that do not change their order – where the whole phrase has a different meaning from the individual words. When you read or hear an idiom, you probably understand all the words, but you are still confused about the meaning.

When you learn a new idiom, it is important to learn:

  1. the meaning of the phrase
  2. the order of the words
  3. any possible ways to change the phrase

You might be able to change the phrase by changing the verb tense, changing the pronoun(s), or making nouns singular or plural. Usually, when you learn an idiom that includes a pronoun, the idiom says “one” or “someone.” When it says “one,” it means the person in the idiom is the same as the subject of the sentence. When it says “someone,” it means the person in the idiom is different from the subject of the sentence.

  • off one’s rocker – This idiom means “crazy.” There is only one person involved. I can say, “Susan is crazy.” Or I can say, “Susan is off her rocker.” I use “her” because Susan is a woman and “one’s” is possessive.
  • to stab someone in the back – This idiom means “to hurt someone and break their trust.” There are two people in this situation. The person in the idiom is different from the subject of the sentence. I can say, “Bill hurt me and broke my trust.” Or I can say, “Bill stabbed me in the back.” It’s also possible that Bill stabbed Susan in the back. Notice that I used the verb in the past tense. I can also use it in the present or future. Also, we always say “the back,” never “my back” or “her back.”

In the following idioms, I will give you example sentences so that you can better understand how to learn idioms.

Six Idioms Related to Time

Now it’s time to learn six English time idioms! Watch the video, and then read the definitions and example sentences below.

  • to have the time of one’s life – to have a great time/to have a lot of fun/to enjoy an experience very much
    – I had the time of my life at my wedding.
    – Sharon is going to have the time of her life at her surprise party.
    – Steve has been having the time of his life at his new job.
  • to take one’s time – to do something as slowly as necessary/not to rush
    – You can take your time on the exam. There is no time limit.
    – We were late to the party because Sharon took her time getting ready.
    – I don’t want to have an accident, so I will take my time and be careful.
  • to do time – to spend time in jail or prison
    – Peter did time after he robbed a gas station.
    – If Wanda is convicted, she will have to do time.
  • to run out of time – to have insufficient time to complete something
    – I didn’t finish the exam because I ran out of time.
    – Paul has run out of time on his project. He should email his professor to ask for more time.
  • to give someone a hard time – to give someone difficulty/to treat someone harshly/to pick on someone or make fun of someone
    – Some college professors give new students a hard time to see who is serious about learning.
    – Brian’s coworkers gave him a hard time when they saw the love note from his wife in his lunch bag.
  • to be ahead of one’s time – to have thoughts, ideas, or actions that are not normal for a person’s time in history (but will become normal in the future)
    – My great-grandmother was ahead of her time. She went to college at a time when most women did not get more than a high school education.
    – Leonardo da Vinci was way ahead of his time. He drew plans for a helicopter almost 500 years before the first helicopter was built.

Your Turn

Do you think you understand all of these idioms? Click here to take a quiz!

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