I have a question regarding the use of certain words to express an idea that implies portions of time. Is a “piece of time” an idiom or does it literally mean a “fragment of time”?

I would really like to know if there’s another natural way to say “a fragment of time”.

For instance:

Each one has

His own piece of time

And his own piece of space,

His own fragment of life

And his own fragment of death.

  • It isn't clear exactly what is meant by a "portion of time", a "piece of time" or a "fragment of time". None of these are standard idioms. The lines you quote sound like a poem, and poets often play with words in unusual ways. In ordinary prose you might use terms like "time interval", "time period", "time slot", "lifetime", etc. – ghostarbeiter Mar 17 '16 at 9:00

A piece of time sounds rather poetic. All of your suggestions make sense as a period of time, which is more prosaically idiomatic.

According to this ngram, portion of time was significantly more popular up to the mid 1900s, after which bit of time became more popular. The assertion that period of time is idiomatic is supported by the ngram that includes the phrase, where its use in Google Book's corpus dominates that of the others combined.

As for your question Is a “piece of time” an idiom or does it literally mean a “fragment of time”?, since time is not normally treated as a physical quantity, neither is a piece of it (i.e. it isn't a physical object one can pick up and store in a container, to be brought out and admired later). Ordinary people cannot literally fragment time, so time has no literal fragments in the sense of your poem. The phrase piece of time is therefore figurative in this context.


In UK English it varies, as usual, depending on the context and context:

  • Can I have a piece of your time? Implies a single, hopefully small, amount of time is being requested
  • I can devote a slice of my time to doing ... Splitting your time between two or more tasks
  • Spending a little more time on .... *Finding some or some more time to devote to something.

The above would be more naturally, but possibly less poetically rendered as:

Each one has

His own slice of time

His own region of space

His own spark of life

And his own personal death.

I base this on time being time being a single dimension space being 3D life being something that sometimes flares and spreads death always being personal.

  • A yank would ask for a "bit" of you time, as opposed to "piece". – user116032 Mar 17 '16 at 19:51
  • 1
    And some would ask for a moment of your time they are usually lying. – Steve Barnes Mar 18 '16 at 14:09
  • I'm British and I don't think I ever heard anyone say "a piece of your time". I think "a piece" sounds more American than "a bit"! I'd be most likely to ask for "a moment", "a bit" or "a little" of their time.. – BoldBen Oct 13 '16 at 22:55

Yank here.

"Could I have a moment?" or, "Could I have a word?" which would also imply a short amount of time.

A single word would be "sec" for "second"; just a sec, in a sec, etc.

Your example "Each one has his own piece of time" seems to be saying "Everyone has their moment in the sun" or "Everyone has their fifteen minutes (of fame)." I'm not sure if that's what you mean. The answer about poetic use of language seems "spot on" too.


I think this depends on context.

If you are talking about a length of time, e.g. the playtime of a movie, I would use timespan.

When asking someone whether they have a moment to spare (because you need help or want to talk to them; I would use that phrasing: "Do you have a moment (to spare)?"

Your example:

Each one has
His own piece of time
And his own piece of space,
His own fragment of life
And his own fragment of death.

That's a poem. Poems do not have to adhere to the same strict grammar rules. "Piece of time" is a bit weird in normal English; but you are justified in using it in your poem. Especially because it's made to mirror the other lines of the poem. "piece of" is repeated twice, and so is "fragment of". This is justification enough for you to use it.

So I think the best answer to your question is: poems do not have to follow grammar rules. Except maybe in cases where your poem would otherwise be impossible to understand (and when it is not your intention to be vague or confusing).

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