Pulse Blogger The grammar of time

While it is grammatically OK to ask “what is the time?” I worry deeply that it is no longer semantically adequate to put that question that way.

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The grammar of time. play

The grammar of time.

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What is the time?

While it is grammatically OK to ask “what is the time?” I worry deeply that it is no longer semantically adequate to put that question that way.

I am often tempted to ask: “The Time? What is the THE time?” Never worry if you fail to understand the import of my question, I only emphasize the definite article THE just to be sure the time zone or the kind of time my inquirer wants to know.

The problem is perhaps not with the question but the gadgets or the time-measuring instruments, or the time zones. The gadgets that tell time are not often dependable based on some factors that may cause inaccuracies.

For example, if your phone battery goes flat and your phone is off, it is likely that by the time you recharge the battery and switch on your phone, the time setting is disorganized.

Let us also assume that you forgot to set the time, what would you say if I asked you “What is the time?” Whatever you tell me can be refuted by the weather at certain periods of the day. But if I asked you precisely “What time is it by your phone?” whatever you tell me is right irrespective of what the weather or other time machines suggest.

I do not want to mention wrist watches here because they are now more of fashion accessories than time tellers. Some of them are powered by movements, meaning if you kept them in a place for long, they just stop working. Wrist watches that use batteries deceive more than ever. When the battery is weak, you are living in a different time and age. When the battery is dead, you are on your own (OYO).

Also, I have tried several times to see if there is ever a time that all the time-telling machines/gadgets in a particular time zone speak the same language, I mean tell the exact same time at the same time. The reality is, all time gadgets do not have the same voice; they say different things at the same time. If it is one o’ clock by my laptop, it could be one past one by your phone.

Never ever ask “What is the time?” except in poetry or informal circumstances when you are very sure your interlocutor understands what you mean. If you are having an online chat with a friend whose country operates another time zone, you should complete the statement. Don’t assume that the person with whom you are chatting has the best time gadgets, hers may be faulty. Be specific. “What’s the time like on your P.C?”

It is thus semantically safe to be specific and complete our statements when we want to know what time it is. We should also never always forget to add a.m. or p.m. as the case may be.

Omidire Idowu Joshua studied English at the University of Lagos. He currently writes and edits for individuals and publication firms.