Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)

Our perception of time is not constant. We have a selective perception of how time is passing based on circumstance and how we are emotionally affected by them. At certain times, as when we are bored, time will seem to pass by more slowly, while at other times, more quickly. This is the subject of the idiom ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’ which is also an English proverb. However, both time flies and time flies when you’re having fun are English idioms with slightly different meanings.

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Meaning of Idiom ‘Time Flies’

We say time flies to mean that a certain period of time has seemed to pass very quickly. For example, you haven’t seen your niece in five years but to you it seems like hardly any time has passed. You are surprised at how she has grown when you see her. You say:  “My, how time flies!”

‘How time flies’ is a frequently used variation of this idiom.

Examples Of Use

“I’m going to be fifty soon. Time really flies. Seems like yesterday I was turning thirty!”

“I have been making idiom videos for over two years. Time has flown by and I still don’t know what I’m doing!”

Meaning of Idiom ‘Time Flies When You’re Having Fun’

The idiom time flies when you’re having fun is a set phrase that we use to express, sardonically, the notion that time seems to go by more quickly when we are enjoying ourselves.

Vacations always seem to ‘fly by’ because, after all, time flies when you’re having fun.


The way this idiom is used doesn’t always have to do with having fun. It is often used ironically for periods of time in which we have not been having fun and it is also used when we have run out of time or reached a deadline, even when the activity we have been engaging in is not very fun.

This is an informal idiom and native speakers will always use the contraction ‘you’re’ instead of ‘you are.’

Examples Of Use

“I can’t believe summer vacation is almost over. Time flies when you’re having fun.”

“It’s time to call it a day. We can finish this up tomorrow,” said Bill. “Time to stop already? Time flies when you’re having fun,” replied Phil.

“It’s 2 am and I have to work tomorrow. We should probably go home,” said Morah. “Woah, it’s already two? Time sure flies when you’re having fun.”


Time flies was first recorded in English around 1800.

This idiom is actually ancient. It is claimed to be an English translation of “tempus fugit” attributed to Virgil. Virgil actually wrote, in Georgics Book 3, ‘fugit inreparabile tempus’ which means, in proper English ‘time escapes and is irretrievable’

Shakespeare, earlier, used a version of it: “…the swiftest hours, as they flew.” Alexander Pope, as well, said: “.Swift fly the years.”

In English, the idea of flying is often used to describe something that goes very fast. In regards to a fast car we might say “That car just flies,” or, we might say that a runner ‘Just flew down the track.”

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