Time idioms – Online English Lessons

The English language has many idioms relating to time: here are twelve of the most common expressions.

♦ to be behind the times – to be behind the times is to be out-of-date and old fashioned; to have old fashioned ideas.


My grandparents are a little behind the times.

♦ to keep up with the times – to keep up with the times is to work to be modern, fashionable and up-to-date. 


1. I like to keep up with the times.

2. I don’t care if you think I’m old fashioned – keeping up with the times isn’t important to me.

Also, move with the times

♦ to have the time of one’s life – to have a very happy time


We had the time of our lives on our trip to Africa.

♦ to take one’s time – to spend as much time as one wants or needs to do something; to do something without hurrying


1. There’s no hurry. Take your time.

2. I like to take my time when I’m choosing new shoes.

Sometimes used disapprovingly when someone is doing something too slowly.


That waiter is taking his time with our meal.

♦ dead on time – absolutely punctual.

Dead on time is a stronger way to say on time.


The train was dead on time.

♦ to kill time – to spend time doing something so that you are not bored while you are waiting for something to happen.


1. We have an hour to kill until our plane departs – let’s go and have a coffee.

2. I killed time reading magazines while I waited for my taxi.

♦  in the nick of time – at the very last moment; seconds before it’s too late


I caught the train in the nick of time.

♦ to be pushed for time – to be in a hurry or to have little or no time to spare.


1. I’m a bit pushed for time this morning: can you iron my shirt for me. please?

2. I’d love to help you but I’m really pushed for time right now.

Also, to be pressed for time.

♦ near her time – when a woman is near her time, her baby will be born soon.


Your daughter looks like she is near her time.

♦ time on one’s hands – a period of time when you have nothing to do.


1. I have a lot more time on my hands now that I have retired from my job.

2. I have more time on my hands now that my daughters have moved out.

♦ to play for time – to try to delay something until you are ready.


We can’t afford to give him the money we owe him – we’ll have to play for time.

♦ to have a rough time


She’s had a really rough time this year: first she lost her job, then her car was stolen, and last week she fell over and broke her wrist.

Do you know any more expressions relating to time? Share them in the comments

What expressions relating to time do you have in your native language?

Images © Angela Boothroyd