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Archive Language Point 141

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Idioms: time

Tim standing next to the cooker in the cafe
Idioms use language metaphorically rather than literally. If you do something 'at the last minute' you do it almost as the deadline is approaching (the metaphorical meaning), you don't actually do it exactly one minute before the deadline (the literal meaning).

Idioms are also fixed groups of words so you can't change the wording of an idiom. For example, you can say you did something 'at the eleventh hour' (which has a similar meaning to 'at the last minute') but you can't say you did something 'at the ninth hour'.

Idioms with 'time':

in the nick of time
just in time, with hardly any time to spare
We had a flat tyre on the way to the airport so we managed to catch our plane just in the nick of time.

from time to time
occasionally, not often
We used to go out together almost every weekend but now that she's got kids I only see her from time to time.

before your time
something that happened or existed before you were born or were old enough to remember it
Of course I don't remember the Los Angeles Olympics. They were way before my time.

have (got) no time for someone
disapprove of someone and not want to be involved with him or her
I've got no time for people who don't pay their way. I don't see why I should always be the one to buy the drinks.

live on borrowed time
continue living after a point when you might easily have died
Since his second heart attack, it's like he's been living on borrowed time. He's taken up golf, started painting and is really just getting much more out of life.

stand the test of time
something that is still popular, strong or good after a long time
Everyone loves that film just now but will it actually stand the test of time?

time will tell
the truth or result will only be known after other things have happened
Only time will tell whether she made the right decision sacking Joe and hiring Frank

Idioms about time:

at the last minute
at the latest possible chance to do something
We'd decided we weren't going to go aboard this summer and then, at the last minute, we decided we did want a sunny, beach holiday after all.

sooner or later
certain that something will happen but you don't know exactly when
You can sit there watching TV for as long as you like but sooner or later you're going to have to wash the dishes so you might as well just get on with them now.

once in a blue moon
rarely, not often
Before we got married we used to go out on dates all the time. Now if I'm lucky, we'll go to the cinema once in a blue moon.

for donkeys' years / donkeys
I haven't seen her for donkeys. She moved to Spain in 1998 and I haven't seen her since.


I'm off
I'm leaving now

what time do you call this?
Why are you late?

getting on my wick
annoying me

turn up

something you can choose to do or not

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