23 time idioms to make your writing more interesting

It's time to make your writing shine

Karly Cox |

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Time is a big part of life, and there are a lot of English phrases and expressions that are related to it. Here are some of the most popular ones, 

1 against the clock

meaning: if you work against the clock, you are trying very hard to finish something before a deadline

use: Police are working against the clock to find the evidence they need.

2 around the clock

meaning: all day and all night

use: The nurses worked around the clock to look after the injured child.

3 back in the day

meaning: a time in the past; used mostly when you are remembering nice things

use: My parents say Hong Kong’s pollution wasn’t a problem back in the day, and the sky was always blue.

4 behind the times

meaning: old-fashioned; not modern

use: Anyone who isn’t on Snapchat is behind the times and needs to catch up!

5 call it a day/night

meaning: decide that you have finished doing something for now

use: We’ve been working on this project since 6am. Let’s call it a day, and finish it tomorrow.

6 crunch time

meaning: a point at which something difficult must be done

use: The elections have been entertaining, but now it’s crunch time, and the candidates must prove they are worthy

7 day in the sun

meaning: a time when you get attention and are appreciated

use: If she keeps working so hard, she will have her day in the sun and be promoted.

8 someone’s days are numbered

meaning: they will not exist for much longer

use: After it got knocked over by that truck, my bike’s days are numbered.

9 at the eleventh hour

meaning: at the last moment; almost too late

use: The director was making changes to the script at the eleventh hour – I mean, the audience were already in the hall!

10 five o’clock shadow

meaning: when a man’s facial hair starts showing a little bit when he hasn’t shaved since morning

use: Andy thinks he has five o’clock shadow, but I’m sure it’s just dirt.

11 make good time

meaning: travel quickly

use: Luckily there was no traffic, and we made good time to the border.

12 never in a month of Sundays

meaning: very, very unlikely to happen

use: Shelley will never in a month of Sundays agree to go out with Richard!

13 in the nick of time

meaning: at the last possible moment

use: Mum saw the plate falling and caught it in the nick of time.

14 once in a blue moon

meaning: very, very rarely

use: Once in a blue moon, I really feel like watching a musical, but generally I prefer action thrillers.

15 play for time

meaning: to purposely delay doing something, or do it more slowly than usual, so you have more time to decide what to do

use: When Dad asked Molly what happened to the window, she gave him a big hug and said how much she loved him. But she was just playing for time – I know she broke it!

16 since time immemorial

meaning: for a very, very long time; since before anyone can remember

use: Our school has had the same, ugly uniform since time immemorial.

17 a stitch in time saves nine

meaning: it is better to deal with problems immediately, otherwise they will get worse and take even longer to deal with

use: Andy and Alex should really break up if they argue so much. It will be painful, but a stitch in time saves nine, and it’s better to do it before they say something they can’t take back!

18 time flies

meaning: time passes surprisingly quickly

use: Time flies when you have three essays to write in a night.

19 time on your hands

meaning: a period when you have nothing to do

use: Grandma has a lot of time on her hands now she’s retired, so she volunteers at the SPCA.

20 time is money

meaning: time is valuable, and you shouldn’t waste it.

use: Why are you just sitting staring at the ceiling? Time is money! Get up and do something practical!

21 time is on my side

meaning: I have a lot of time to finish something

use: Since Mr Ng gave us an extension on that project, time is on my side, and I can make it really great.

22 to the end of time

meaning: forever

use: I will be a Justin Bieber fan to the end of time, even if he stops singing.

23 wasn’t born yesterday

meaning: not stupid or naive

use: I tried to trick my aunt into sticking her hand in a bag full of jelly, but she said she wasn’t born yesterday, and tipped it over my head!