What’s the Time?

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A reader asks

How does one ask the time in English?

Several expressions are used:

Do you have the time?
What time is it?
What’s the time?
What time do you make it?
Have you got the time?

Depending on context, the first and last of these expressions can also be used to ask if a person has sufficient time to do something:
Do you have the time to stop at the post office?
Have you got the time to sew on this button?

In our hectic, deadline-oriented culture, lack of time is often a concern. Here are some time expressions related to anxiety about having sufficient time.

time’s running out: some sort of deadline is approaching.

Scientists have come up with the radical suggestion that the universe’s end may come not with a bang but a standstill – that time could be literally running out and could, one day, stop altogether.

running late: being off schedule. I’m running late for an appointment. According to an article on the Good Morning America site,

Chronic Lateness Is a Pervasive and Expensive Problem

last minute: the last possible moment before something is due to happen or be submitted. He always leaves his homework until the last minute. A last-minute call to the Governor stopped the execution.

eleventh hour: the latest possible time. The expression derives from the parable of the workers in Matthew:

And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? –Matt. 20:6

The workers hired early in the morning resent it when those hired at the eleventh hour (close to quitting time) receive the same payment as they do.

Most of these time expressions have figurative connotations that make them popular as titles for creative works:

The Eleventh Hour: television drama in which a scientist saves the day at the last minute.
Time is Running Out: song by English rock band Muse
Running Out of Time: novel by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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8 thoughts on “What’s the Time?”

  1. Some less accepted forms of the question:
    “What time you got?”
    “What time it is?”
    “You got the time?”
    “What’s your watch say?”

  2. I definitely wouldn’t say “Have you got the time to sew on this button?” I’d say it without “the”: “Have you got time to sew on this button?”

    Actually, I wouldn’t say this sentence either. My wife doesn’t sew. I’ve had a shirt in need of button replacement surgery for a year now, as a result.

  3. Sir,
    When to use the word “America” and “American”.

    Like above you said
    Good Morning America site,

    Why not American site.

  4. According to an article on the Good Morning “America” site,
    why not
    According to an article on the Good Morning “American” site,

  5. “Good Morning America” is the title of an American TV show (a terrible one, I would add) that has a site. Hence, “the GMAmerica site”.

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