Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is there a better word or way of saying give or take to refer to the possibility of inaccuracy? For example,

I will be arriving in 30 minutes, give or take 5 minutes.

I want to indicate the possibility of arriving within five minutes of either side. So about or approximately are too vague.

share|improve this question
    
Not specify, just indicate there is the possibility that I can arrive 5 minutes either side of in 30 minutes. –  Awemo Jun 10 '12 at 19:10
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There isn't a "better" way of saying it.

In a more formal context you might say something more like "to within five minutes", and in a more "geeky" context you might say (or more likely write) "+/- 5 minutes".

But for most purposes (in particular, speech) OP should just stick with "give or take".

share|improve this answer
3  
±5 > +/‒5 > +/- 5 –  Jon Purdy Jun 11 '12 at 4:32
add comment

In a technical or scientific context, you can use "with a tolerance of".

For example:

The process is expected to complete in 30 minutes with a tolerance of 5 minutes.

share|improve this answer
    
The scientific merits of your answer sound very good, I am however looking for a more commonplace term/expression. –  Awemo Jun 10 '12 at 19:08
4  
Using Bruno's suggestion in everyday conversation might get you noticed. "I'll be there at 4:30, with a tolerance of 5 minutes." That might be a great way to set a date with someone wearing this shirt –  J.R. Jun 11 '12 at 10:05
    
@J.R. It can get worse... How about "I will be arriving in 30+t minutes, where -5 <= t <= 5"? –  b.roth Jun 11 '12 at 17:22
1  
@Bruno: That's rather hard to say conversationally, but that's a great way to text it! :^) –  J.R. Jun 11 '12 at 17:25
add comment

"I will be arriving in 30 minutes, Plus or minus 5 minutes". "I will be arriving in 25 to 35 minutes". "I will be arriving within 5 minutes of 4:30". "I'll be there about 4:30".

share|improve this answer
add comment

Or simply: I'll be there between 4:25 and 4:35.

But if you are looking for a commonplace expression, "give or take" is it.

share|improve this answer
    
The problem with that is that cultural expectations of allowable slack that still counts as that time vary a great deal. For example, try that in Switzerland versus in Mexico, or even in Boston versus Los Angeles for that matter. I can just see somebody adding another 10 or 15 minutes of slack to both sides of that, meaning you actually need to expect them anywhere between 4:10 – 4:50 instead of the originally stated 4:25 – 4:35. Perhaps best to say 4:30, and to call if you’re going to miss that by more than a minute or three. Or five. See the problem? –  tchrist Jun 10 '12 at 22:07
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.