“Time flies when you’re having fun” is a popular, easily understood idiom that applies to a variety of situations. It, like most idioms, is more easily understood with some context. But, unlike some vaguer and stranger idioms, this one can be understood with only the phrase itself as information. Most idioms are impossible to understand if one does not have a contextual history with the words. They cannot usually be broken down into their parts and defined. This is why many language learners struggle when they first come into contact with idioms in a foreign language.
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Meaning of “Time flies when you’re having fun”
“Time flies when you’re having fun” is one of the simpler idioms used in the English language. It refers simply to the phenomenon that time appears to pass more quickly when engaged in something they enjoy. It’s a way of explaining away the fact that the best things go by quickly and are over before one knows it. Part of the reason that the phrase has become so popular is that it’s intrinsically untrue. Time passes at the same speed no matter what one is doing, but it certainly doesn’t seem that way sometimes.
Within the phrase, there is an additional use of personification in the image of time flying. This is not meant literally but as a way of emphasizes how fast it passed.
When to Use “Time flies when you’re having fun”
The phrase “time flies when you’re having fun” should be used among friends, family, and close colleagues, as should all idioms. Idioms are meant to be used colloquially or in common conversation, not in academic or professional settings. One might use the phrase after another person comments on how fast an outing, experience, or date went. It’s possible to use it morosely as if one is mourning that time moved as fast as it did or to use it more matter of factly. It could be said directly and without inflection as a way of reminding oneself and others that this is just the way things work sometimes.
Example Sentences with “Time flies when you’re having fun”
- I can’t believe it’s time to go home already. Time flies when you’re having fun.
- Well, you know what they say, Anna, time flies when you’re having fun.
- Is it really 3:00 already? I can’t believe how fast time flew by. We really were having a lot of fun.
- I had so much fun with you today. It went so fast, though! Time really flew by while we were having fun.
- What are your plans for this evening? I don’t know, but I’m going to try to enjoy myself so time will fly by.
- Susan told me that she had a wonderful time on her date. She said that time really flew by. She was having so much fun.
Why Do Writers Use “Time flies when you’re having fun?”
Writers use “time flies when you’re having fun” in dialogue. It would likely appear in a short story or novel and within a section of dialogue between friends or family members. Just as one might use it in everyday speech, so too do writers use it in their dialogue. Idioms are often a double-edged sword when it comes to writing. Some, used correctly, will make a section of dialogue appear more convincing and relatable. On the other hand, more cliché idioms might make a reader roll their eyes at a writer’s attempts at connection.
Origin of “Time flies when you’re having fun”
“Time flies when you’re having fun” was first recorded with these specific words in the 1800s. But, there are other alternative versions that were used earlier. One of the best-known is Shakespeare’s “the swiftest hours, as they flew.” Alexander Pope, another important writer who was born more than 100 years after Shakespeare, wrote something similar. He used the phrase “swift fly the years,” perhaps inspired by the Bard.
Additionally, lovers of idioms have looked to the Latin phrase “Tempus fugit” as a possible origin. It comes from Virgil’s Georgics, line 284, book three. In Latin, he wrote “fugit inreparabile tempus,” meaning “it escapes, irretrievable time,” a far more elegant version of what came to become a very popular idiom.
- “Pull yourself together.”
- “Don’t get bent out of shape.”
- “Make a long story short.”
- “Hit the sack.”
- “Easy does it.”
- “Get something out of one’s system.”
- “So far, so good.”