Is there any difference in the meaning and sentence structure between the following two sentences?

1- It's time you paid the electricity bill.

2- It's time to pay the electricity bill.

  • 1
    #1 means that you're on the hook to pay the bill that's due. It uses a (reduced) relative clause as a complement: It's time [that] you paid the bill. #2 means that somebody needs to pay the bill that's due. It uses an infinitive clause to pay the bill as the complement.
    – deadrat
    Mar 5, 2017 at 4:06
  • Please search the site for it's time. Mar 5, 2017 at 16:21
  • Downvoting looks like stabbing someone in the back. Instead of downvoting, we should share opinion and find solutions. Mar 6, 2017 at 9:20
  • No, insulting your question is not insulting you. Trust me on this and do not take it personally. Mar 6, 2017 at 21:08
  • Related.
    – tchrist
    Feb 16 at 0:11

2 Answers 2


1- It's time you paid the electricity bill.

2- It's time to pay the electricity bill.

Both these sentences have the same meaning. The structure 'It's time + Subject + Past tense verb' has the present tense meaning. The second sentence can be rewritten expressing the subject of the 'to infinitive' as 'It's time for you to pay the electricity bill'.

There is a similar expression 'It's high time' + subject + past tense verb', which has a difference in meaning.

it's high time (The Free Dictionary)

If you say it's high time that something happened, you mean that it should already have been done.

Her parents decided it was high time she started paying some rent.

(often + that ) It's high time that nurses were given better pay and conditions.


Both of them use non-finite phrases in the 2ndary predicate.

  • It's time {non-finite phrase}.

It's quite obvious the 1st sentence is more specific about who is paying the bill, but that point is not the gist of the question. Therefore, to remove interference/crosstalk from that unintended question, I shall rephrase your question as

What is the difference between these?

  1. It's time you paid the electricity bill.
  2. It's time for you to pay the electricity bill.

The difference is

  1. It's time {state of completed-event subjunctive}.
  2. It's time {infinitive phrase}.

Technical explanation ...

What is a non-finite.

A non-finite is a functional module, that can be reused without changing its contents and structure, for any situation that requires the same context. Existence of non-finite phrases was born out of creative laziness. BTW, laziness is the virtue of a good software programmer.

e.g. infinitive {to die}:

  • I came here to {to die}.
  • She will come here {to die}.
  • Many people are going to Colorado {to die}.
  • {To die} or not {to die} is the perplexing mystery.

What is a subjunctive

A subjunctive is one of the many forms of non-finite shedding of constraints.

A subjunctive is an imaginary state. Subjunctive situations are actually a continuum. Traditionalists have been obsessively pigeon-holing/quantizing subjunctive categories, and are now overwhelmed with too many categories. Furthermore, almost every sentence we make has some measure of subjunctive/imaginary situation.

Just as in engineering Mathematics where most situations are a combination of real and imaginary numbers.

Sometimes we may not realize a description is subjunctive:

  • Explicitly: If he came into my house, I would kill him.
  • Contextually: His story will never be published.

Even though we can't actually effectively categorize subjunctives (as many grammarians have actually attempted to do), we could dig some temporal delineation into the imaginary world.

  • Past event: don't know when in the past.
  • Past event: don't want to constrain when in the past.
  • Future event: don't know when in the future.
  • Future event: don't want to constrain when in the future.
  • Don't know when whether past, present or future.
  • Don't want to constrain when past, present or future.
  • Present state: past event, don't know when in the past.
  • Future state: current event.
  • Past state affected by future event.
  • etc, etc: you could actually think of other imaginary temporal delineations.

In the event-state model, a past participle is a current state due to a past event. e.g. {a painted door}.

  • {having {paid your electricity bill}} is a current state of a past event. Where event = {pay electricity bill}.

The context found in statement #1 of your question, is a subjunctive situation of imagining you being in a current-state of having executed the event {pay electricity bill}.

  • Could the downvoter explain, or prove me wrong. Mar 5, 2017 at 12:47
  • No disrespect, the length of the answer makes it a bit of hard work for a non-native. Mar 6, 2017 at 21:13

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