I've been discussing with a few people about a certain phrase in a piece of co-authored writing that bugs me. I can't put my finger on it, but half of us think the phrase is correct, the other think it is incorrect.


The workers have been trained on how to continue the construction, and, when time, man the structure.

It's evident what is trying to be said with the phrase, but the "and, when time" part sticks out and feels wrong. The ones who think it is incorrect suggest the following tweak.


The workers have been trained on how to continue the construction, and, when the time comes, to man the structure.

  • 2
    'When time' is a deleted form probably of 'when it is time' (and, by implication, 'when it is the right time'. Have you checked how often the shortened form occurs on the internet? A search for "when time" will need fairly heavy filtering. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:12
  • Forget the Google search for "when time". There are just too many false positives to wade through. You could look through example sentences in online dictionaries. I'll just say that your original sentence doesn't jar at all with me. But I can't find any support for my view here. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:21
  • @EdwinAshworth that was my exact problem. I've tried to Google around for support for the original, just using general searches for online resources that go into detail about it, but came up with nothing which is why I asked here
    – Donglecow
    Jul 30, 2019 at 12:38
  • 1
    I'd suggest the model 'The cake was baked, and, when ready, taken to be iced'. 'It was' is easily retrievable. Jul 30, 2019 at 12:47
  • 1
    @Donglecow I don't think when time is wrong, simply that it's a little unusual. I believe even when it's time would be more common. But I'm not providing an actual answer because anything I said would be essentially just my personal opinion. Jul 31, 2019 at 13:16

2 Answers 2


I stand with the tweak. "When time" feels incomplete because it is, but we understand it because "when time" is barely ever used without "comes".

"when time comes" is more correct, and IMO a little bit more readable, but this is down to the reader's preference.

  • 1
    'when time comes' jars me. 'when the time comes' feels entirely natural as does 'when time'. Jul 30, 2019 at 15:07

A more idiomatic tweak would be:

The workers have been trained on how to continue the construction, and, in time, man the structure.

Definition of 'In time'

phrase of time
(2). eventually.
"there is the danger that he might, in time, not be able to withstand temptation"

Source: Oxford Dictionary Online, via Google

  • In time communicates differently - it doesn’t suggest a trigger event, whereas when time does.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 30, 2019 at 23:51
  • @Lawrence I would consider it to mean once the construction has finished. Jul 31, 2019 at 6:32
  • @Lawrence would in due time be better? Jul 31, 2019 at 6:36
  • Yes, in due time / in due course is a little better, though it still doesn’t answer the OP’s question (in the title) about whether “in time” is idiomatic.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 31, 2019 at 8:49

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