North Americans tend to view time as a possession.
We feel responsible for the time we are given each day, and many people schedule their time carefully.
In English, there are many verbs associated with time that reflect this attitude. We talk about:• wasting time • killing time • spending time • saving time • managing our time • budgeting time • having (or not having) time • giving someone time • taking someone’s time • running out of time
Because of this, when you phone someone, or stop to have a conversation, it is polite to ask the other person for permission to use their time. Some examples follow:• Do you have a few minutes? • Can you give me a sec’? (short for second, used when you are asking someone to wait for you for a very short time) • Do you have time for this? I don’t want to keep you. • I won’t take up a lot of your time, but I wonder if I could ask you a quick question. • If this isn’t a good time for you, I can come back / phone back later.
To use a lot of someone’s time without asking for their permission is generally seen as inconsiderate. If you want to discuss something that may be time-consuming, you should schedule in advance a time to meet.
See the STORY The Sleepover example: “Am I calling at a good time?”
For more information on the topic of time, see Cultural Tips>time-a few minutes
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