20 English Phrases with the Word TIME

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Time is one of the most common words in English, and it’s used in a LOT of different phrases beyond just asking “What time is it?” Today we’ll learn 20 idioms or expressions with the word “time” – and you can download all of them by clicking here. When you enter your e-mail address, I’ll send you a free PDF guide to this lesson as well as a quiz. So make sure to get a copy of that to practice and review.

All right, it’s time to get started!

ahead of one’s time = having ideas or attitudes that are too advanced for the culture/society at the moment

My grandmother was ahead of her time – she opened her own company in an era when there were few women in the business world.

behind the times = old-fashioned, not keeping up with current developments

Bob is a bit behind the times – he doesn’t know how to use a computer, much less a smartphone!

a race against time = a situation when you need to rush to do something before the deadline (time limit)

The last day for submitting project proposals is one week from today – so now it’s a race against time.


in the nick of time = at the last moment before it’s too late.

We got to the airport in the nick of time – if we’d arrived 15 minutes later, we would’ve missed our flight.

have the time of your life = have a super wonderful experience

My kids had the time of their lives at Disney World.

have a devil/hell of a time = a very difficult experience

I’m having a devil of a time trying to install this software – every time I try, I get a different error message.


bide your time until = wait patiently for a good opportunity

He was just biding his time until he got a chance to work at his dream job.

catch at a bad time = attempt to speak to someone in a moment that is inconvenient for him/her

Hi Peter! You caught me at a bad time – I’m about to go into a meeting. Could I call you back in an hour?

have a lot of time on your hands = have a lot of free time (maybe too much)

That guy completely covered the walls of his room with colored pencil drawings. He must have a lot of time on his hands!

all in good time = it will happen when the time is right, so be patient

“Why is it taking so long for my career to take off??”
All in good time… just keep working hard and you’ll make it.”

only a matter of time = it will definitely happen sooner or later

The company has lost money for the third year in a row; it’s only a matter of time before it goes bankrupt.

time will tell = the passing of time will show the result, whether good or bad

“I was surprised that Bill and Jackie got married. Do you think they’ll be happy together?”

“Only time will tell.

stand the test of time = last for a long time and continue to be successful

This is a classic work of literature. It has stood the test of time.

the time is ripe = it is the best time to do something

Real estate prices are low, and we have a lot of money saved up – I think the time is ripe for us to buy a house.

Ripe fruit is at the perfect moment to eat!
Ripe fruit is at the perfect moment to eat!

a time suck = something that takes a lot of time (negative connotation)

Every week I have to update hundreds of documents for work – it’s a real time suck.

the big time = the highest or most profitable level

She made it to the big time with the launch of her latest novel – it sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the first week.

time flies = time passes very quickly

Your son is already 12 years old? I remember when he was a baby! How time flies


Another expression: “Time flies when you’re having fun” – Time passes more quickly when you’re doing something you enjoy


IT’S ABOUT TIME = something finally happened, but it should have happened a long time ago

They finally fixed the elevator in my apartment building – it’s about time; it was broken for months.

time is of the essence = correct timing is very important (often used for things that are urgent)

In order to meet the deadline, you need to send us the contract by Monday – time is of the essence.

third time’s the charm = the third time you try something, it will work (when the previous two attempts have failed)

I’ve called her twice, but she hasn’t answered. Let me try again – the third time’s the charm.

Now that you’ve learned these 20 expressions, it’s time to practice! Make sure to try the quiz inside the free PDF of this lesson, which you can download by clicking here.

As you can see from this lesson, common English words are used in lots of idiomatic expressions with meanings that might not be obvious. I have a course to teach you over 300 common idioms in English, you can join that by visiting my website – learning these expressions can really help take your English fluency to the next level.

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