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A Question of Time*


QUESTION:
Vahid from Iran asks: “I have a German friend. When she wants to ask about time instead of saying “What time is it?” she says “What late is it?” I want to know if this is correct or not.

ANSWER:
The most common expression for asking the time is “What time is it?”, followed by “What’s the time?” You can also say, “How late is it?” although you would not use it to ask the time in general, but in situations where you’ve been doing something for a long time, or where you have to be somewhere else at a set time and you are concerned about being late.  (We would not say “What late is it?”)  For example:

A: “We’ve spent six hours on this report.”
B: “How late is it?”

A: “The party to release Jeff’s new CD is at 8:00.”
B: “How late is it? I need plenty of time to get ready for the party.”

In response, you can give the exact time, or use one of these common terms: “about/ish,” “almost,” and “just past.”

For instance, if it is 6:27, you could say:

– “It is 6:27 (six twenty-seven).”
– “It is exactly 6:27.” (if you want to emphasize the precise time)
– “It is about 6:30 (six thirty).” or “It is 6:30-ish.” (if you don’t need to be precise.  In British English and in old-fashioned speech/writings, you may hear “half past six,” but that is not commonly used in American English today.)
– “It is nearly/almost 6:30.”
– “It is just past 6:25.”

We also talked about telling time in ESL Podcast 378, in case you’re interested.  Thanks to Vahid for the question and I hope that helps.

~ Lucy

P.S. *When we use the expression “a question of,” we mean “an issue related to” or “will be decided by.”  For example:
– “Whether I can take a vacation to Asia this summer is a question of money.”
– “We’re not sure who will get the new job.  It’s a question of who has the best leadership skills.”

10 Responses to “A Question of Time*”

  1. kuong do Says:

    Whether I can get a scholarship to study in the United States of America this year is a question of TOEFL iBT scores.

  2. sergio Says:

    Dear Lucy,
    thank you. Talking about time is ever interesting…
    I hope next time you’ll like to explain to us what the TIME is!
    After all it’s only a simply… question of time. :)
    Sergio

  3. Tania Says:

    Hi! I have just listened to ESL Podcast 378/2008 with great pleasure. I had not listened to it before.
    New phrases for me. Thank you especially for the difference between British English and American English talking about time.

    Your incredible charm make us lose track of time.

    Best wishes,

    Tania

  4. Lee Says:

    I like this kind of writing with answer for question. I learn a lot from your ESLP and the blog. Thank you.

  5. Javi Says:

    I didn’t know about ish use in that way. Half past six is not use in U.S. now. I won’t use it again when i talk to Americans, right?
    Javi

  6. Myo ko ko Says:

    Lucy,
    Literally, I’m running out of words to give you credits that you really deserve!
    Because you’re so great, at least, when it comes to being nice to us, to your ESL students here on this blog.
    Remember? You promised us that you’ll do more posts, like this sort of “Q & A” post and then you didn’t just show up for a while.
    I was on the verge of asking about it.
    Now I don’t need.

    Lucy, So much thanks. ;)

  7. Myo ko ko Says:

    By the way,
    When will Jeff release his “Biggest Hits” CD?
    Please, don’t forget to give me head-up about it.
    Just kidding. ;)

  8. mohsen Says:

    hello everbody
    I’m mohsen from iran and I want to have appreciation of Mr jeff for his fluent speaking on podcats. and I had a request about films and movies, I want a guide about saying in films that are very different with podcasts. if only there is a learning guide about saying and words that use to american films. thank you very much.

  9. emiliano Says:

    Everything is a question of time, nine months to be born, twelve years to be a boy or a girl, eight years to be an adolescent, another
    twenty to be a young adult and finally no body knows how many years to be an adult or an old person with sense good healthy
    and mind capacity.

    But it is also a question of time to be here alive, how many time?, well that is the gist of all we do not know how may years, months or
    hours we have ahead.
    Better to be happy every moment doing our best to give also our time to the people we really love or have close to us along
    this our life.

    Being the only creature in the world that have enough knowledge about our end it seems to me frequently we like to forget this
    absolute truth, by this reason all inside our life is a question of time.

    Years ago we have a christian ceremony before holly week that were something as tu put some ashes on the head of the children
    and other persons in the ceremony at the same time that the priest said to the people: “Have in mind that you are ashes and in
    ashes you are going to be transformed”, it was what here we called “the ashes wensday” before Easter week but now people
    don´t like to remember that all our life is a question of limit time.

    There is a song from the Brother Four that I like very much, well I do not know if here it is allowed to put the lyrics but
    the title is: “The green leaves of Summer” and the lyric is: (please, Lucy I think it is possible but delet it if I am not right)

    A time to be reaping
    A time to be sowing
    The green leaves of summer
    Are calling me home ”
    Twas so good to be young then
    In the season of plenty
    When the catfish were jumping
    As high as the sky

    A time just for planting
    A time just for ploughing
    A time to be courting
    A girl of your own ”
    Twas so good to be young then
    To be close to the earth
    And to stand by your wife
    At the moment of birth, wo…

    A time to be reaping
    A time to be sowing
    A time just for living
    A place for to die ”
    Twas so good to be young then
    To be close to the earth
    Now the green leaves of summer
    Are calling me home ”

    I like “The Brothers Four” absolutely since I was fourteen more or less, but then I did not
    understand a single word of their songs.
    Now yes, it is very easy, thanks a lot Jeff and Lucy, at the end I can.

    By best dear Lucy, emiliano

    Wo…wo…
    A time to be reaping
    A time to be sowing
    The green leaves of summer
    Are calling me home ”
    Twas so good to be young then
    In the season of plenty
    When the catfish were jumping
    As high as the sky

    A time just for planting
    A time just for ploughing
    A time to be courting
    A girl of your own ”
    Twas so good to be young then
    To be close to the earth
    And to stand by your wife
    At the moment of birth, wo…

    A time to be reaping
    A time to be sowing
    A time just for living
    A place for to die ”
    Twas so good to be young then
    To be close to the earth
    Now the green leaves of summer
    Are calling me home ”
    Twas so good to be young then
    To be close to the earth
    Now the green leaves of summer
    Are calling me home

  10. emiliano Says:

    Incredible, I have written twice the lyric, but I have missed to say that this
    song is made on the original soundtrack of the movie “El Alamo” of 1960
    directed by John Wayne, music of the great “Dimitri Tiomkin”.
    Another soundtracks of Dimitri Tiomkin were “High Noon” here in
    Spain translated to “Solo ante el Peligro” with Gary Cooper and Grace
    Kelly before being Princess of Monaco, either “Giant” and “Dial M for Murder”
    or “Red River” are made for this grea music.
    To me “High Noon” is one of the best movies in history, but also
    “time” is another character in the movie as we are watching a clock
    time after time, waiting for the bad guys who are going to shoot the
    sheriff, Gary Cooper.
    Incredible good movie, in real time, directed by Fred Zinnemann where
    I repeat “time” is fundamental.

    If you have not seen it, please watch the movie that has been registered
    as one of the best by The American Film Institute and the Library of the
    USA Congress.
    By the way, the soundtrack of “High Noon” is absolutely genial and the
    song “Do not forsake me, oh my Darling” won an Oscar.

    That´s all for the moment friends. emiliano