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I lie certain times(1) but not all the time(2).

Should (1) be times or time?

and

Should (2) be time or times?

What is the correct form of the sentence and why?

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6 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I believe it to be

I lie at certain times, but not all the time

Your use of times and time was correct; the only problem I saw was with the lack of a preposition before certain times.

EDIT:

Other possible variants include

I lie at times but not all the time

I lie from time to time but not all the time

And already mentioned

I lie sometimes but not all the time

Depending on what you want to say (you lie at certain times, because of specific conditions met at these times, or you lie occasionally, from time to time, or something else) you can use any of them.

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Lying is dependent of the specific conditions. –  Kirk Hammett May 27 '11 at 13:02
    
@Kirk Hammett Then at certain times is what you need. –  Philoto May 27 '11 at 13:05
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It should be "times".
"Certain" refers to specific instances.
There is also the example of "certain ones", to back up "certain times".

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"Time" has a number of meanings and special uses.

As an abstract concept, it is an ordinary uncountable noun: "Time is a strange thing".

Meaning "reading on a clock or stopwatch", it is an ordinary countable noun: "The measurements shall be taken at the following times".

Meaning "occasion", it is a countable noun, so "at all times", or "at the times when ... " are grammatical; but there is a special idiom "at times", which means nearly the same as "at some times".

"The time" referring to the whole of the relevant time span (sometimes all of eternity) is an uncountable noun, which behaves in some ways like a name. It appears exclusively in quantified phrases such as "all the time", "some/most/little/none of the time".

[Posted as an answer at Kit's suggestion]

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The correct form of the sentence you've given is

I lie at certain times, but not all the time.

You would use "times" for the first part because you are indicating that you lie at particular points in time. You would use "time" in the second part because you are speaking about an indefinite time period, which has no clear beginning or end.

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Don't quite agree with your last sentence, kit. "I'll be in at times over the next two days" is similarly indefinite periods, but there may be several of them so "times" is still plural. Furthermore, the idiom requires "the": you can't say "*all a time", and while you can say "all time", it means something rather different ("eternity"). You can say "some of the time" and "most of the time", though. I think "the time" is a special uncountable noun, that's a bit like a proper noun. –  Colin Fine May 27 '11 at 15:04
    
Good explanation. Post it as an answer and I'll upvote it. –  KitFox May 27 '11 at 15:27
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The sentence is correct as-is, but would be more clear if you added "at" and a comma:

I lie at certain times, but not all the time.

Depending on your meaning, this sounds a bit more natural to my (American) ears:

I lie sometimes, but not all the time.

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(1) should be times (2) should be time

However, "certain times" sounds odd to me. I would use "at certain times" or "sometimes".

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