Time Expressions

Hi dear English learners. You’ve probably noticed that there are so many time phrases in English such as “a while”, “every now and then”, “in no time”, etc. which you don’t quite understand. Keep reading because I’m going to explain 20 time expressions and phrases which you may or may not know.

A while back 

Meaning: at some time in the past.

  • The dentist fixed my bad tooth a while back and now it’s fallen off.  
  • The problems started a while back when Stuart met his ex-wife at some friends’ party.

A while ago

Meaning: not long ago, recently.

  • I’ve heard Sean had a big argument with his sister a while ago.  
  • Lorna was worried because the cheque she deposited a while ago wasn’t registered in her bank account.

Time expressions

About time

Meaning: use this phrase when you think that something should have happened earlier.

  • It’s about time you tidied up your room!
  • Don’t you think it’s about time we let our hairs down and have some fun?

Ahead of time

Meaning: in advance.

  • I finished the project a week ahead of time.
  • Martha will prepare food for the party ahead of time and keep it in the freezer.

Time expressions

All along 

Meaning: all the time, from the beginning.

  • I’ve been telling you all along to stop smoking.
  • The police knew all along that the robbers hadn’t left the country.

At all times

Meaning: always.

  • Psychiatrists need to remain confidential at all times.
  • When you go abroad, keep your passport with you at all times.

Time expressions

At times

Meaning: sometimes.

  • Last winter, it was very cold at times.
  • Miriam is a nice girl; she can be moody at times, though. 

Every now and then 

Meaning: occasionally.

  • Although he quit smoking a long time ago, Mark enjoys smoking cigars every now and then.
  • Sarah is seeing her ex-husband for a coffee and chat every now and then. 

From time to time

Meaning: sometimes, but not on a regular basis.

  • I’m dieting, but I have a cake from time to time.
  • Fiona goes to the cinema from time to time when there’s a good film on.

Time expressions

Every so often 

Meaning: sometimes.

  • Cathy used to visit her grandparents every so often while they were still alive.
  • Every so often I like to go hiking in the forest.

(Every) once in a while

Meaning: occasionally, not too often.

  • I still meet up with my ex-colleagues every once in a while.
  • My husband and I enjoy eating out once in a while.

From now on 

Meaning: starting now and continuing in the future.

  • I want to make it clear that from now on I won’t tolerate students being late.
  • From now on, I’m skipping dinner until I lose weight.

Time expressions

Have all the time in the world

Meaning: to have lots of time.

  • We don’t need to hurry. We have all the time in the world.
  • Mum and dad won’t be back soon. We have all the time in the world to clean the house after the party.

In no time

Meaning: very quickly.

  • As soon as we get out of the traffic jam, we’ll be home in no time.
  • Peter was impatient to see his presents so he ate his dinner in no time.

It’s a matter of time

Meaning: we can expect something to happen soon.

  • Look at those clouds. It’s only a matter of time before the storm begins.
  • Grandpa is very sick. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time.

Time expressions

Once and for all

Meaning: completely and permanently.

  • You should stop smoking once and for all.
  • At the end of his life, he settled in a small mountain village once and for all.

Run out of time

Meaning: not much time left to do something.

  • I know it’s risky to change the project now but we’re running out of time.
  • Sorry, I’ll stop you there. We’re running out of time.

Time expressions

For good

Meaning: forever.

  • After they bankrupted, the Johnsons closed their shop for good.
  • Tara decided to leave the small town she grew up in for good and move to a big city.

In the old days

Meaning: in the past.

  • Food used to be healthier in the old days.
  • In the old days, you could get a coffee for a shilling.
Time expressions
Time expressions

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