English is riddled with idioms that are sometimes difficult to define. You need to hear idioms in conversation to understand and use them yourself. An example of this kind of English idiom is “at your convenience.”
It is correct to say “at your convenience” if you’d like something to happen at a time or place that suits the person you are addressing. It’s a polite expression we use semiformally to say “whenever it’s suitable for you.”
In this article, we’ll explore the phrase “at your convenience” and understand what it means and how it came into everyday use. We’ll also think about when and how to use it, other alternatives we could consider, and also look at other prepositional phrases that we use in English, especially those that are also idioms.
What Does “At Your Convenience” Mean?
When we say that we will do something “at your convenience,” we mean we will do it at a time that is best for you (source). Grammatically, “at your convenience” is a prepositional phrase we use idiomatically to mean “when it suits you.”
The noun “convenience” has several definitions in English. For example, it can mean any of the following (source):
|Quality of being convenient, suitability for performing a specific action||The convenience of living so close to an airport is handy for work.|
|Something that simplifies or contributes to our comfort or ease||My favorite modern convenience is the dishwasher; it makes housework so much easier.|
|For ease or without discomfort||We will provide tea and coffee for the convenience of delegates.|
|A suitable or convenient time||Please return the sleeping bag at your convenience.|
|A lavatory or toilet (British English only)||The public convenience is situated at the entrance to the park.|
We can also use “convenience” as an adjective to mean easy to use or made for convenience, as in the following examples:
- There are many convenience foods that make dinner so easy to prepare.
- There are convenience utensils available at the catering table.
- I’ve stocked my freezer with convenience meals to eat when I’m running late.
The word “convenience” dates back to the 14th century and evolved from the Latin convenientia, meaning “a meeting together, an agreement” or condition of being suitable (source). The meaning evolved to include the more modern “giving ease or comfort” as well as not being personally difficult in the 17th century.
How Do You Use “At Your Convenience”?
You can use “at your convenience” to politely say that the person you are speaking to can do something whenever it suits them. It’s a common phrase that you would most likely use in an email or conversation with someone else.
“At your convenience” is a prepositional phrase that contains a preposition (at), a determiner (your), and a noun (convenience). We normally put it at the end of a sentence. First, we say what must be done, and then we follow it with “at your convenience,” as shown in the examples below.
- I’d like to discuss this topic at your convenience.
- Please return the books at your convenience.
- Go ahead and make an appointment at your convenience.
We most often use “at your convenience” in the present tense because we are usually asking someone to do something at a time or place in the future that suits them.
When Can You Use “At Your Convenience”?
You can use “at your convenience” whenever you are speaking or writing to someone and want to politely request that they do something when it is convenient for them. It is also commonly used in polite conversation or semiformal emails and letters.
It is most often used in the workplace or when dealing with service providers or acquaintances. With friends, you’d more likely say “when it suits you” or something more casual.
- Your order is ready for pickup at your convenience.
- You can pick it up whenever you have time.
You would generally use “at your convenience” when you are being respectful to the person you are addressing and don’t want to inconvenience them. Also, you would use it when you don’t need them to do something at a specific time or place.
You often use the phrase because you are asking for something and want the person to know that they can do it when it suits them and that you aren’t demanding it immediately.
In What Context Can You Use “At Your Convenience”?
You should use the phrase “at your convenience” in polite environments where you want to show respect semiformally. The term is conversational, so you would generally use it in polite conversation or correspondence rather than formal speaking.
We often use “at your convenience” in conversation when we are expressing that the person can do what we have requested at a time or place that is suitable for them. We use it similarly in a letter or email.
You might receive a letter from a doctor or other service provider requesting that you book a follow-up appointment or something similar “at your convenience.” This means you are requested to make the booking, but the timing is up to you.
- Book your next appointment at your convenience.
Or, you might be talking to a colleague when he asks you to read a report he has written. He may say, “Please read it at your convenience.” In this context, he’s not in a rush for you to do so; therefore, he’s not demanding that it happen immediately. We use “at your convenience” when the timing isn’t important or urgent.
If something were time-sensitive, but we still wanted to avoid being demanding, we would use “at your earliest convenience.” This phrase is still respectful, but it suggests that timing is significant. So, when we use “earliest,” we indicate that we’d like you to do it when it’s convenient for you, but still as soon as possible.
- I need the data by tomorrow. Please could you send it at your earliest convenience?
- Please make an appointment at your earliest convenience to discuss these results.
- I’d like to discuss Jack’s dismissal at your earliest convenience.
When Not to Use “At Your Convenience”
You shouldn’t use “at your convenience” if you need something to be done urgently because the phrase leaves the timing up to the person you are addressing. Also, you would not use the phrase in casual conversations with friends because it is relatively formal.
If you need to request that something gets done in a time-sensitive manner, then you need to be more specific about a deadline. You would say, for instance, “please read the report before Friday” rather than “at your convenience.”
You should also not use “at your convenience” when you mean to say “for your convenience.” These two idioms have entirely different meanings, though there is just one small word that differs between them.
“For your convenience” means to make things easier for you or prevent your discomfort. We would use this phrase when we want to say something has been done or provided to make you more comfortable. For example, we might say any of the following:
- We have provided beach towels for your convenience.
- For your convenience, there are pens in the delegate packs.
- We offer a shuttle to the airport for your convenience.
What Can You Use Instead of “At Your Convenience”?
We’ve already mentioned that we use “at your convenience” to mean “when it suits you,” but there are other alternatives that we can use, depending on the environment we’re in and what we are requesting.
Consider the examples below. You may use any of these in place of “at your convenience,” but some are more formal than others. Let’s consider alternatives for the sentence, “Please make an appointment at your convenience.”
- Please make an appointment at a suitable time.
- Please make an appointment at your leisure.
- Please make an appointment in your own time.
- Please make an appointment when it pleases you.
- Please make an appointment when you have a moment.
- Please make an appointment whenever you like.
- Please make an appointment that fits your schedule.
Using “At Your Convenience” in a Full Sentence
We generally use “at your convenience” at the end of a sentence to explain when we’d like something done. It forms the second part of a request, where the first part is what needs to be done.
The request usually begins with a polite construction such as “please” or “I would like to” because we generally use “at your convenience” when we are being polite and not demanding.
The examples below all exhibit how this looks in a complete sentence.
- Please call me to further discuss this at your convenience.
- Please schedule a meeting with Jack at your convenience.
- I’d like to meet with you two at your convenience.
- You can pick up the vehicle at your convenience.
- You may collect your documents at your convenience.
- Let’s make a plan to get together at your convenience.
With all of these, if we replace “at your convenience” with “at your earliest convenience,” we would imply a sense of urgency.
We often use prepositional phrases in English. These phrases begin with a preposition and end with a noun or noun phrase (source). We use prepositional phrases to add details to a sentence about anything a preposition can describe.
Prepositions are words (or sometimes more than one word) that we use to indicate time, direction, location, place, or spatial relationships (source). It is impossible to describe where something is located without using a preposition.
“At your convenience” is a prepositional phrase that begins with the preposition “at” and ends with the noun phrase “your convenience.” Let’s think about other common prepositional phrases we come across in English.
- To the store
- Around the block
- In the morning
- During the pandemic
- On the bed
- At the library
- Across the street
- Down the stairs
- Through the tunnel
- Under the rug
- Over the rainbow
- Past the bread store
- Beside the park bench
These examples are all simple prepositional phrases that are easy to understand. But what about prepositional phrases that are idiomatic and mean something different from what their literal words suggest?
Phrases and Idioms
We use many idioms in English, which sometimes can be hard to understand. Though you may understand the individual words, the idiom will mean something different. Most times, these just have to be learned, and they will become more familiar the more you speak and hear English.
“At your convenience” is an idiom that means “when it suits you.” Many other common prepositional phrases we use in English mean something different from what we may immediately assume. Take a look at some examples below.
|English Idiom||Meaning||Example Sentence|
|In the end||At the conclusion of something||They got what they deserved in the end.|
|In particular||especially||I love all animals, but I’m interested in elephants in particular.|
|On the other hand||In contrast to||I want to visit my cousin, but on the other hand, I’m too busy to travel.|
|Out of the blue||unexpectedly||He arrived at my party out of the blue.|
|For a living||As an occupation||What does Helen do for a living?|
|By the way||Incidentally,||By the way, I’m not able to come next week.|
|From head to toe||All over the body||Jen was covered in scratches from head to toe after the camping trip.|
|At all times||always||You must wear a facemask at all times in this building.|
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
We use phrases like “at your convenience” to be polite to people without appearing demanding. Moreover, most languages have phrases speakers use to show respect; “at your convenience” is one of those. Such phrases help us make requests or suggestions that are not urgent.
Grammatically, “at your convenience” is an idiomatic prepositional phrase we frequently use in polite communication, especially in the workplace. However, avoid using it for specific deadlines. If the request is somewhat urgent, but you need to be polite, then you can say “at your earliest convenience.”