Verbs for Time


We all know the power of words; they affect us every day. Our words influence others and ourselves. This is the inspiration for those of us who want to become writers; we want to use the tool of our words to tell good stories. As a writer, I am aware of the effect word choice has on the mood, character, and framework of a text. The words I use, and their connotations, create the imagery and the tone of my writing.

Three years ago, my wife and I moved to Grenoble France to work with a student association. We taught an English course while we were learning French. It was fascinating to examine these two interconnected languages side-by-side. Something I noticed between them was the difference in the verbs for the usage of time. In English, we use economic verbs: spend, waste, or invest time. In French, the dominant verb is to pass (passer). Anglophones spend time together while Francophones pass time together.

This observation, in conjunction with Keith Chen’s TedTalk (view here) in 2012 about the effect our native language’s word choice has on our thoughts and behaviors, made me think about how our language and our verb choices for describing time affect our perception of life.

To spend time with someone or devoted to a task has a connotation of finality. When we spend money, it’s gone. This can imply that time is spent and then over. While the linear progression of time is true, I cannot help but wonder if a different verb would be beneficial.

I have decided to modulate my verb choice for time from “spending” to “investing.” I believe the concept of investing better articulates my views of time usage. When I invest time in having coffee with a friend, I retain the reward of deeper friendship. My investment is not gone; in fact, I am richer from that usage of time than I was before. Similarly, when I employ time to the development of a skill or a leisure activity, I am enriched by of these choices. I have long believed that time is a terrible thing to waste. I try to invest my time well, and I see the fruit of my labors as the return on my investment.

The idea of word choice affecting our perception is not limited to the subject of time, but I want to start with this significant topic before exploring the effects on other matters. What other words that we commonly use influence us? Can you think of alternate words to choose? If so, please leave a comment. I would love to see what you all think of.

Thank you for your investment in reading this post, I hope you feel encouraged. Now go invest time in something.


About Tim Oldenkamp

I am fantasy writer working on my debut novel and a trilogy of short stories. My wife and I recently moved back to our native California after living in Grenoble France for three years.
This entry was posted in Languages, Writing Thoughts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s