Is there any semantic difference between "I need a minute" and "Just a minute"? I have no context.

I guess that the second phrase is a request of waiting to a few minutes: 1, 2 or many minutes. It's an unofficial style.

'I need a minute' has the more exact length of time. It isn't 2 or 3 minutes. It is punctually, official exact one minute!

Am I right?

Update1. I completed a little survey... So, I found out that 'I need a minute' is very exact. I have fear to post references to different sites for evidence (can be off-top).

Update2. Just a minute (idiom) = wait a minute. In other words. This imperative mood can't be polite.

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    Both expressions specify "a minute", so taken literally both would mean exactly one minute. Neither expression is usually intended to be taken that literally. I guess there's a theoretical semantic difference in what the minute is for, but in practice there isn't really a difference in usage.
    – nnnnnn
    Jul 29, 2019 at 14:31
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    These are idioms and this is not the place to look for them. They concern basic meanings. They are easily found elsewhere.
    – Lambie
    Jul 29, 2019 at 14:50
  • nnnnnn, Just a minute - A short amount of time. Though the actual amount of time can vary, the phrase usually refers to a few minutes. Lambie, I agree about the second phrase. It is an idiom. I think that the first phrase isn't idiom. Can you get me a reference, please? I don't find idiom of 'i need a minute' . Jul 29, 2019 at 15:08
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    To me "Just a minute" usually implies that the speaker needs to perform or, more likely to complete, a task before attending to the person who is being addressed. "I need a minute" on the other hand implies that the speaker needs to collect his or her thoughts, get his or her emotions under control or rest for a short while before continuing.
    – BoldBen
    Jul 29, 2019 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


"I need a minute" explicitly indicates that the speaker is the cause of the delay. "Just a minute" does nothing to indicate the reason for the delay. It simply indicates that there will be one.

"Just a minute" is a bit more formal than "I need a minute" which might be sharing more than I care to know.

Both phrases are polite if said nicely.

If taken literally, the length of time is 60 seconds for both but if I started timing someone who said this they'd likely be annoyed. They are used similarly to "just a sec" which is literally 1 second yet hardly ever is. The phrase that saves you from the pedantic people here is, "just a moment", which is vague enough to be literally true without involving a stop watch.

  • candied_orange, I agree with you because I googled a little bit. 1) Do you think that both phrases have a similar length of time? 2) 1st phrase can't be polite without a complement of a reason. 2nd phrase > (more polite than) 1st phrase because 2nd phrase has an adverb 'just', hasn't it? Jul 29, 2019 at 18:39
  • @РустамМулюков better? Jul 29, 2019 at 20:19
  • You got an answer so nice as kind and clear! It was intricate yesterday and it's better now. I understood that I do absolutely not have a sense of English Stylistics! Give me five! ;) Jul 30, 2019 at 8:12

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