8

From users of British English, I have noticed the pattern of adding time after a unit of time, as in:

He has class in 30 minutes time.

My initial impression as an American is that this is quite silly as the fact that we are talking about time is already implicit in the unit minutes, which can only be used to describe time. (Edit: Okay, they can also be used to describe latitude or longitude, or angles, but I find it hard to conceive of an example where it isn't already obvious whether we're talking about time or a location on a map even without adding time.)

However, I wonder if saying “he has class in 30 minutes time” contains more information than, say, “he has class in 30 minutes”. Is there some bit of information encoded into the use of the word time here?

My questions are these:

  1. Does the use of the word time in this sense add additional information, or would removing time from any sentence (when used in that way) not alter the meaning?

  2. Is this slang? Is this formal English?

  3. Are there cases where it wouldn’t be OK to say “X [units] time”, but it would instead be correct to say “X [units]”, in British English?

  • 17
    You're missing the inaudible apostrophe - He has class in 30 minutes' time = He has class within the time of (= described by) 30 minutes. – Daniel Apr 24 '12 at 15:05
3

I would agree that the use of the extra word "time" in your example adds nothing, and is therefore redundant and better avoided.

To my British ears, this usage sounds more American! Maybe it's just as incorrect on both sides of the pond...

For the duration of an event, the word "time" would never be appended in English: "He has a class for 45 minutes", (although it would in some other languages).

  • 2
    An American would never add "time" after a unit of time, so it's odd to me that you call the usage more American. That's a very interesting point about duration. Could you say something like "In 2 hours, he'll have a meeting for 3 hours time"? – Jeremy Apr 24 '12 at 15:29
  • 4
    No, but you could say "In 2 hours (time) he'll have a meeting for 3 hours." – DavidR Apr 24 '12 at 15:33
  • 5
    In the Corpus of current American English, the frame [in x minute (') time] has a frequency of about 0.08 per million words in the Fiction subcorpus, where it is most common. In the British National Corpus, it's about 0.50 per million words in the spoken subcorpus. This suggests that it's rare in both dialects, but less common in American English. – Brett Reynolds Apr 24 '12 at 15:34
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    I think I'm starting to get it. It seems to me that time in this sense just means "from now". So it does encode additional information, if that's right. – Jeremy Apr 24 '12 at 15:35
  • 2 cents use case: If I was writing in a rigid formal style, say for a academic paper I would probably use "time", but would otherwise not generally use it – Toby Apr 25 '12 at 10:37
1

The 'time' bit is redundant even in British English. It's possibly technically more correct but sounds a little stiff or old fashioned, anyone would understand "in 30mins"

edit: there are possibly occasions where you would need to differentiate between minutes/seconds of time and minutes/seconds of arc - but unless you are writing astronomy or navigational software I wouldn't worry.

-1

It seems everyone has missed the fact that 'He has a class in two hours' can mean either:

  1. He has a class in two hours hence.
  2. He has a class that runs for two hours.

The second meaning is somewhat less obvious, and typically is expressed with 'for'; however, it seems to me that 'in' can serve this function as well.

This distinction can be observed better in the following sentence, 'There will be five chimes in an hour if the clock is working'. This can have one of two meanings:

  1. In an hour hence, there will be five chimes.
  2. In any given hour, five chimes will occur.

The use of 'in an hour's time' would exclude the second meaning. Such a contrived example, however, obviously is rather rare.

  • 1
    He has a class in two hours cannot mean (2). We would use lasting or for rather than in if we intended this meaning. – Peter Shor Jul 15 '18 at 13:01
  • This [2] is very far off the mark. Think about revising your assertion. – Cascabel Jul 15 '18 at 16:27
  • It could be just a quirk of Australian English then. I would have no qualms about saying that. Similar constructions I have definitely heard include, 'He paints it in two hours'. – JDF Jul 15 '18 at 21:19
-10

Whether American or British English, you do not write

In thirty days.

You should write

In thirty days'.

That is because such a phrase is actually a contraction of

In thirty days' time.

Writing

I will be there in three hours.

I will be there in 30 minutes.

without the apostrophe is colloquialism, and many of us have become succumbed to it.

Would we write and say

I will be there in a minute's.

I will be there in an hour's.

or should it be

I will be there in a minute.

I will be there in an hour.

?

While you should write,

I will be there in an hour's

you could write either

I will be there within an hour

or

I will be there within an hour's.

Further examples:

Payment should be remitted within 30 days after receiving goods.

Payment should be remitted within 30 days.

Payment should be remitted after 30 days.

Payment should be remitted in 30 days'.

I was given 24 hours' notice before being evicted.

I was given a 24 hour notice.

There was a 5 day waiting period before I could buy a gun.

I will be able to buy a gun after five days.

I will be able to buy a gun after a five day period.

I will be able to buy a gun after five days' waiting.

I will be able to buy a gun after five days'.

I will be able to buy a gun after five days.

I will be able to buy a gun after five days of waiting.

I will be able to buy a gun after a five day of wait.

I will be able to buy a gun for Pete's sake.

I will be able to buy a gun for five days' wages.

  • 7
    "Whether American or British English, you do not write 'In thirty days.'" Errrr... yes, you do. "In thirty days" is NOT a contraction of "In thirty days' time". They are different sentences, both of which are correct... but the in-between version you're suggesting, with a possessive apostrophe but nothing to possess, is NOT CORRECT. – MT_Head Apr 25 '12 at 5:38
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    There are so many things wrong in your answer that my head is starting to ache. "I will be able to buy a gun after a five day of wait."??? For Pete's sake! – MT_Head Apr 25 '12 at 5:46

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