A Visual List of 100 English IDIOMS FOR TIME with Examples

Are you looking for something to do to kill time? Well there are plenty of idioms here for you to learn! If you practise them regularly, soon you’ll be able to use them on a day to day basis and improve your English!

I am a true believer that there is no time like the present. So start learning today!

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1. AROUND THE CLOCK
If something is open around the clock, it means it is open 24 hours a day.

  • The hotel’s service is great, there is always someone available to help you around the clock.

behind the times idiom

2. BEHIND THE TIMES
Used to describe someone who is old-fashioned and has ideas that are regarded as out-dated.

  • It’s a shame his parents don’t understand it from his point of view, they’re really behind the times.

3. AHEAD OF TIME
If something happens ahead of time, it happens early, before the set time, or with time to spare.

  • If you make the cakes ahead of time, then you’ll be able to focus on the decorations more.

4. CALL IT A DAY / NIGHT
To stop doing something for a while, normally at least until the following day. This can also be used as slang to say something has been ended completely.

  • Right guys, you’ve worked really hard. I think it’s time to call it a night, I’ll see you all again tomorrow.
  • Neither of us was happy in the relationship, so we decided to call it a day.

5. A MONTH OF SUNDAYS
This is a very long period of time.

  • It’s been a month of Sundays since I last went to the theatre!

6. DWELL ON THE PAST
When someone thinks too much about the past, and it becomes a problem.

  • I wish you’d stop dwelling on the past, she’s never going to come back. You need to move on with your life!

7. AGAINST THE CLOCK
Doing something against the clock means you are rushed and have very little time to do it.

  • I worked day and night against the clock to get this done on time, and you’re being so ungrateful!

8. CALL TIME
When you call time on something, you decide it is time to end it.

  • I think we should call time on this project. It is draining our resources, exhausting our manpower, and isn’t making any progress.

9. AFTER THE WATERSHED
In some countries, the watershed is the time limit after which, more TV programmes can be shown that include adult humour, bad language, or controversial subjects.

  • Why are the children still up watching TV? They should be in bed now, it’s after the watershed!

10. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
This suggests that it is better to do something late than not do it at all.

  • I’ve finally managed to build my dream house. I know I’m nearly at retirement age, but it’s better late than never!

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11. DAYS ARE NUMBERED
When someone’s days are numbered, they are expected to die soon.

  • The doctors say his days are numbered. They don’t have much hope of him surviving this illness.

12. DO TIME / SERVE TIME
Used to describe someone’s sentence in prison.

  • He is doing time for a crime he did not commit!

13. DON’T KNOW WHETHER TO WIND A WATCH OR BARK AT THE MOON
Used when someone just doesn’t know what to do

  • He has asked me to marry him and is still waiting for an answer, but I don’t know whether to wind a watch or bark at the moon!

14. ELEVENTH HOUR
When something happens at the very last minute.

  • Everyone thought he was going to lose when he had to stop to get a tyre changed, but at the eleventh hour, he came first and won the race!

15. CRUNCH TIME
When someone has to make an important decision that will affect not just their future, but those of others around them too.

  • As the Executive Director stepped out onto the podium, his clothes felt damp, and sweat beads were forming on his forehead. He knew it was crunch time.

16. CARRY THE DAY
If something carries the day, it defines a win that felt like a long battle and could have gone either way.

  • The Liverpool Football Club had carried the day well, they rejoiced as they held their prize, the League Cup, up high for all to see.

time flies idiom

17. TIME FLIES
A very common idiom that means time passes very quickly.

  • I can’t believe it’s almost time to go home. It’s funny how time flies when you’re having fun!

18. JUST IN TIME / IN THE NICK OF TIME
This means that you get somewhere or finish something just before it is too late. At the last possible moment.

  • She thought her husband was going to miss the birth of their first baby, but he arrived just in the nick of time.

19. ON TIME
This means to not be late, arrive at the right time.

  • The trains here are never on time, it’s so annoying!

20. SAVE TIME
This means to do something the quick way, in order to allow time for other things.

  • If we drive there instead of taking the bus, we’ll save time.

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WAS WERE Usage With Examples

21. OUT OF TIME
This means there is no time left to do something. The time limit or deadline has been reached.

  • You’re out of time now. If you haven’t answered all the questions in the test, then that is your own problem.

22. AS TIME GOES BY
This means the passing of time. As time passes or moves on.

  • As time has gone by, I have become less interested in clubbing and partying.

23. TIME IS MONEY
This famous expression means that your time is a valuable commodity, and that you should put it to good use, otherwise you’ll lose more than you gain.

  • It’s not worth waiting to hear back from that company. Time is money, you should just start contacting other employees instead.

24. MAKE TIME
This means to find the time to do something that should take priority. Having to clear some time in your schedule to do something.

  • You should make more time for your children. They’re growing up so fast, and you’re missing all of it.

25. TIME FOR A CHANGE
To stop what you are doing and start doing something different with your life

  • After working in the same company for 15 years, I feel like it’s time for a change.

26. COME OF AGE
When something develops completely and reaches maturity. Also used for when a person reaches adulthood or fulfils their potential.

  • He has come of age now, and is wise enough to take the throne and become king.

27. CRACK OF DAWN
Very early in the morning. The very first moments of sunrise.

  • I wake up at the crack of dawn and go for a run every day.

the big time idiom

28. HIT THE BIG TIME
This means to become successful.

  • After John hit the big time, he became very rich and forgot about all his old friends.

29. BIG TIME
This simply means ‘very much’ or ‘a lot’.

  • You owe me big time because I helped you with your school project.

30. DAY IN THE SUN
When you have your day in the sun, it means you get the attention you want and are appreciated.

  • It felt like a day in the sun today. My manager actually noticed me and praised my work. I was even able to put my feet up and have dinner cooked for me when I got home!

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31. EVEN A BROKEN/STOPPED CLOCK IS RIGHT TWICE A DAY
This is used when people get lucky but don’t deserve it, or are undeservedly successful.

  • He definitely didn’t deserve to win the lottery, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

32. FEAST TODAY, FAMINE TOMORROW
If you indulge yourself with everything that you have today, and don’t save for a tougher time then you may have to go without tomorrow.

  • He’s just bought himself a new Lambourghini, and wears new suits every day. He doesn’t understand that it’ll be feast today, famine tomorrow if he continues like this!

33. FIVE ‘O’CLOCK SHADOW
This is the term for the facial hair that a man gets if he doesn’t shave for a day or two.

  • You can’t go for your interview with a five ‘o’clock shadow! Go and have a shave!

34. FOR THE TIME BEING
This indicates an action or state will continue into the future, but is temporary.

  • You can stay in my house for the time being, but you need to save up some money and get your own flat.

35. FULL OF THE JOYS OF SPRING
Used to describe someone who is very happy and full of energy.

  • I wonder why she is so full of the joys of spring, Darren must’ve proposed to her!

36. GIVEN THE DAY THAT’S IN IT
This Irish idiom is used when something is very obvious because of the day that it occurs on.

  • Well, there are hardly any taxi drivers around, given the day that’s in it is Christmas.

37. GOOD TIME
When someone manages to travel faster than expected and gets to their destination early.

  • I got to the office in good time, but got lost inside the building trying to find my interview room, and ended up being late anyway!

38. HAVE ONE’S MOMENTS
Someone who generally exhibits a positive behaviour pattern on an occasional basis, but not generally. Random bursts of positivity.

  • He seemed in ever such a good mood earlier today, and offered to cook dinner! I guess he does have his moments!

39. HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
This could be used to describe some desirable things such as money and happiness. This means to say that they don’t last very long.

  • Don’t stress about money so much all the time. It’ll be here today and gone tomorrow anyway!

wasting time idiom

40. WASTING TIME / A WASTE OF TIME
This refers to anything that is not a useful way to spend your time. Doing something that is pointless or useless.

  • Studying that engineering course was a waste of time. I didn’t learn anything new!
  • You’re wasting your time by sitting here talking to me. Go to the train station before she leaves!

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41. HONEST AS THE DAY IS LONG
Used to describe someone who is very trustworthy and honest.

  • I can’t believe he has been accused of stealing their money. I’ve known him for many years, and he is as honest as the day is long!

42. HOUR OF NEED
A time when someone really needs something, almost a final chance.

  • I was there for him in his hour of need, but he hasn’t shown any sign of offering to help me now that I need his support!

43. IN AN INSTANT / IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE
Something that happens very quickly

  • If he apologised and admitted his mistakes, I would take him back in an instant!
  • All you have to do is put the porridge in the microwave and it cooks in the blink of an eye!

44. A LAUGH A MINUTE
Used to describe someone who is very funny

  • I love hanging out with Jenny, she’s a laugh a minute! You never get bored of her company.

45. LIKE CLOCKWORK
Used to describe something that happens at very regular times, at the same intervals without fail.

  • My cat used to wake me up every morning like clockwork, but nowadays she seems too old to care.

46. LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW
To do something fast or energetically as if it were your last opportunity to ever do it.

  • You have to win this race Barry, when it’s time to go – just run like there’s no tomorrow!

47. LONG TIME NO SEE
This means the speaker has not seen the other person for a very long time.

  • Hello Sarah! Long time no see! How have you been?

48. MAKE MY DAY
If something makes your day it makes you happy or satisfies you.

  • I just heard my favourite song on the radio and it made my day!
  • I hope I win the lottery tonight. It really would make my day!

49. A MILE A MINUTE
To do something very quickly.

  • I couldn’t keep track of everything he was saying. He talks at a mile a minute!

50. NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
People who say this belief that it is better to do something now than leave it for later, otherwise it might never get done.

  • You should go travelling now, don’t leave it for next year. There’s no time like the present!

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51. NO TIME TO LOSE
This means you have to get something started right away, otherwise it won’t be finished on time.

  • We have to prepare the surprise before Jack gets home. Quickly, we’ve got no time to lose!

beat the clock time idiom

52. BEAT THE CLOCK
This means to do something quickly before you run out of time.

  • I managed to beat the clock and complete my exam just in time!

53. A QUESTION/MATTER OF TIME
This is said before saying what you think will happen in the future.

  • It’s only a matter of time before they shut the business down.
  • He is so ignorant, it’s only a question of time before she gives up and leaves him!

54. A WHALE OF A TIME
You say this when you have a great time and thoroughly enjoy yourself.

  • The theme park was so much fun. I had a whale of a time!

55. DAY TO DAY
Something that happens as part of a usual routine.

  • The day to day running of this office needs to be more efficient, nothing seems to get done on time!

56. FROM NOW ON
To begin doing something from now until some unknown time in the future.

  • From now on, you need to promise that you’ll behave yourself and help out around the house!
  • From now on, I will be much more careful when I decide to trust someone.

57. FROM TIME TO TIME
To do something occasionally, not very often.

  • I do think about joining a gym, or going for a run from time to time, but I’m always too busy.

58. IN THE LONG RUN
Over a long period of time.

  • I know it seems like buying a house now is a bad idea, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. It’s a good investment.

59. NOW AND THEN / NOW AND AGAIN
To do something occasionally.

  • I like going out for a meal every now and then, it makes a nice change from having to cook.

kill time idiom

60. KILL TIME
When you do something to amuse yourself while waiting for something or someone.

  • Sarah’s not going to be here for another 20 minutes. Shall we walk to the park to kill time?

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61. HIGH TIME
You can say this when you think something should’ve been done already, and is overdue.

  • It’s high time you asked your boss for a promotion, you work so hard and deserve to be paid more!

62. NOW OR NEVER
This means that something has to be done now or can’t be done at all.

  • Ask her now before she leaves for her two-week trip. It’s now or never, you won’t be able to do this when she returns!

63. THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
A time when an important decision is made, or the truth about something is revealed.

  • Right everyone, here’s the moment of truth. John press the big red button and activate the system please.

64. TIME AFTER TIME / TIME AND TIME AGAIN
To do something again and again, or repeatedly.

  • Time after time he makes the same mistakes and expects me to forgive him!
  • I have told him time and time again, but he just doesn’t listen!

65. YEAR IN, YEAR OUT
Something that happens every year for many years in a row.

  • Our family holidays are so boring now. Year in, year out we go to the same holiday resort ad stay in the same old hotel!

66. ONLY TIME WILL TELL
This means you cannot find out the truth, the answer, or the result of something. You have to wait and find out in the future.

  • Only time will tell whether their marriage will survive this or not.

67. TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS / TIME IS A GREAT HEALER
This means that feelings of hurt will leave as time passes by. This expression usually refers to emotional hurts, not physical ones.

  • I was angry with him for a long time, but time heals all wounds. I am completely indifferent now.

68. TIME OFF
This means to take a holiday or a break from work or other commitments.

  • I would like to book some time off for next week please. I really need a holiday!

69. A HARD TIME
To do something that is difficult or to suffer hardship.

  • I had a hard time trying to find this place. Your directions were terrible!

70. TOO MUCH (FREE) TIME ON ONE’S HANDS
This is used when someone has too much free time, and not enough things to do.

  • I have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment. Can I help you with anything around the house?
  • He watches a lot of TV because he has too much time on his hands. I keep urging him to get a job, but he’s too lazy!

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71. BY DEGREES
When something happens or develops gradually, or little by little as time goes by.

  • By degrees their business relationship grew into friendship.

72. CLOCK IN / CLOCK OUT
This is when you record the time you arrive or leave your job to show the number of hours that you have worked.

  • I clocked in a little late today, I hope I don’t get into trouble for it!

turn back the hands of time - time idiom

73. TURN BACK THE HANDS OF TIME
This means to go back to the past, usually used in moments of reminiscence or regret.

  • If I could turn back the hands of time, I would promise to be a better person and treat you right.

74. A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT
When something comes or happens a little too late and is no longer good enough to accept.

  • They offered me a contract after I’d already accepted another job offer – a day late and a dollar short!

75. DONKEY’S YEARS
To define something that happens over a very long period of time.

  • I haven’t seen you for donkey’s years! Where have you been living all this time?
  • He has been working there for donkey’s years and knows all the trade secrets!

76. IN ONE’S OWN TIME
To do something in your own time and take as long as you want to. It could also mean to do something outside of other commitments.

  • Fine, I will help you. But I’ll do it in my own time, don’t rush me!
  • That’s something you can do in your own time, not during office hours. Bring it back to the office when it is finished.

77. IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME
When something happens by luck, or someone is given an unexpected chance completely by surprise.

  • I can’t believe he gave this major contract to me. I must’ve just been in the right place at the right time!

78. IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME
When something unlucky happens, that would not have normally happened.

  • He killed an innocent man who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

79. IN DUE COURSE
This means everything will happen as it is supposed to, at the appropriate time.

  • We will find out the results of your test in due course, you’ll just have to be patient.

80. IN THE INTERIM
Something that takes place during a period of time between two events.

  • I won’t be able to move into my new apartment until next month, so could I stay at your house in the interim please?

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once in a blue moon idiom

81. ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
This refers to something that happens very rarely.

  • My grandparents live in Canada. I only get to see them once in a blue moon, because it’s very expensive to fly there.

82. AROUND THE CORNER
Used to describe something that will happen very soon.

  • Christmas is just around the corner and I haven’t even bought any gifts for my family yet!

83. NOT/NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS
This means ‘absolutely never’ or ‘at no time in my life’.

  • I am not moving 100 miles away from my family. Not in a million years!
  • Never in a million years will I understand why she decided to marry him.

84. THE TIME OF ONE’S LIFE
Used when someone enjoys themselves very much.

  • The kids had the time of their lives at Disneyland!

85. ONCE UPON A TIME
Used to describe something that happened in the past, a long time ago. It is usually used to describe something that you wish still happened now. It is also used to begin children’s stories.

  • I used to look like a model once upon a time.
  • Once upon a time, there lived a young girl called Cinderella.

86. STAND THE TEST OF TIME
Used to describe something that lasts or continues to work well for a long time. This could also be used for something that remains respected or popular for a long time.

  • This old piano has really stood the test of time, it’s been in our family for generations!
  • Darren and Sue celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Their marriage had stood the test of time.

87. PRESSED FOR TIME
Used when someone has hardly enough time to do something, and they need to be quick.

  • I would love to stay and talk for a bit longer, but I’m really pressed for time!

88. SHELF LIFE
When something needs to be used or sold before a certain date. Mainly used for food, drink or medicine.

  • Tinned food generally has quite a long shelf life.

89. HAVE TIME ON ONE’S SIDE
When you can afford to wait before doing or achieving something.

  • He failed this time, but he’s still young enough to try again. He has got time on his side.

90. THE SHIP HAS SAILED
This expression means that a particular opportunity has passed by, and now it is too late.

  • He waited too long to apply for that job, and now the ship has sailed.

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91. UNTIL HELL FREEZES OVER
When someone says this to you they mean you can do whatever you like for as long as you want to, but you will never obtain what you are trying to.

  • You can keep asking me until hell freezes over, but I will not allow you to visit that boy!

92. CATCH SOMEONE AT A BAD TIME
Used when someone is being interrupted at an inconvenient time.

  • I’m sorry Jeff, have I caught you at a bad time? I wanted to talk about tomorrow’s meeting.

93. THE TIME IS RIPE
This is used when it is the right moment to do something.

  • We managed to sell our house when the time was ripe, and made a great profit!

94. IN THIS DAY AND AGE
An expression to define these modern times.

  • She was appalled to see that so much injustice could exist in this day and age.

95. STUCK IN A TIME WARP
Something that has not changed from a very long time in the past, when everything else around it has.

  • This town seems to be stuck in a time warp. It looks exactly like it used to back in the 1960s!

96. TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
This expression can be used in a situation where timing and meeting any deadlines are essential and required.

  • We must get to work right away, time is of the essence.

97. TAKE EACH DAY AS IT COMES / TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME
To deal with things as they happen, and not to make plans or worry about what will happen in the future.

  • I’ve been through a lot of changes in my life recently, and have learnt to take each day as it comes.

98. SOONER OR LATER
This is used when one is certain that something will happen, but is unsure exactly when.

  • She will have to speak to me sooner or later. She can’t ignore me forever!

99. BIDE (ONE’S) TIME
This is used when one is waiting for further developments.

  • I will bide my time here and wait for him.

100. TWO-TIME
To betray one’s spouse or lover by secretly dating someone else at the same time.

  • When she found out that he had been two-timing her, she left him instantly.

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Written by: Nadia Ilyas

Nadia is a British English teacher and the head writer at MyEnglishTeacher.eu. In her free time she loves mountaineering and travelling around the world.