When we do something a lot over a period of time, we might wonder what to say when others ask us about what we were doing. Should we say we did this or that for a long time? Or is it correct to say “much of the time”?
It is correct to say “much of the time” when we want to indicate that we have been doing something for a long time and are not sure of the exact amount itself. In this phrase, “much” is a quantifier for “time” and indicates the scope or amount of time. For example, you can say, “Much of the time was spent fixing problems.”
In this article, we will explore how and when to use “much of the time” and look at related phrases and quantifiers. In addition, we will explore the difference between “much” and other words (like “most” and “many”) and have a brief look at idioms.
What Does “Much of the Time” Mean?
“Much of the time” is an idiomatic phrase that means “for a great amount of time.” It includes the quantifier “much” followed by the noun it quantifies, “time.” Let us look at the words in the phrase themselves to understand them better.
“Much” by itself means “a great quantity, amount, extent, or degree” (source). For example:
- She loved him so much that she sacrificed everything for him.
- Is he much like his dad? Or more like his mother?
“Time” in this phrase is an uncountable noun, and we use it to refer to a generic amount of time rather than a specific amount. For example:
- Once upon a time
- Children spend more time looking at screens than outside.
How Do You Use “Much of the Time”?
We can use “much of the time” where we do not know the exact amount of time or do not have to give the precise amount. Use “much of the time” to ask a question, answer one, or even provide information to the listener or reader. In this phrase, “much” is a quantifier to help us convey the amount of time (source).
We use quantifiers like “much,” “many,” “some,” and “a lot of” to describe quantities, amounts, or degrees of something. In the example of “much of the time,” we are using “much” to quantify “time.”
- The old friends used much of the time to catch up.
In the example above, it is not clear how much time the old friends spent catching up, but it was certainly the majority of the time they were together.
Using “Much of the Time” in a Full Sentence
We can use “much of the time” in any part of a sentence. It can start a sentence, be in the middle, or end it. Note that we cannot use it independently and must add additional information to make sense. The only exception is a casual conversation where this might be a suitable answer to a question.
Let’s look at a few examples of using “much of the time”:
- They spent much of the time before the dinner looking for the tablecloth!
- She is away from home much of the time.
- Much of the time, I find myself lost in thoughts of my childhood.
- How much of the time did you work on this specific project versus the other tasks?
As you can see from the above examples, we can use this phrase anywhere in the sentence and be grammatically correct. Let’s look at a conversation allowing us to use this alone.
- Speaker 1: “Were you sleeping when your parents were away at the movies?”
- Speaker 2: “Much of the time.”
While you could add more details to the above response, simply saying “much of the time” here is enough and appropriate. Note that in a more formal or official scenario, “much of the time” helps add details to our response.
- Speaker 1: “Have you been working on this project recently?”
- Speaker 2: “Yes, I was working on it for much of the time last week, but not this week.”
When Can You Use “Much of the Time”?
We can use “much of the time” in formal and casual conversations when we do not know the exact amount of time but want to convey the meaning “a great amount of the total time.”
Some scenarios where we can use this idiomatic phrase include conversations where we want to let others know that we spent a large portion of the time doing some activity. It might not be continuous, but overall, it helps us denote a significant amount of the total time.
You can use “much of the time” along with any tense, but you must ensure that you clearly describe most of the allotted time.
- Present: “What are you doing?” “Well, we are spending much of the time goofing off.”
- Past: “What did you do yesterday?” “We goofed off much of the time.”
- Future: “What will you do tomorrow?” “We will probably goof off much of the time.”
Though not stuck with any one tense, it is far more common to use “much of the time” when sharing how one spent an amount of time in the past.
When Not to Use “Much of the Time”
We should avoid using the generic “much of the time” when we want to provide more specifics in our conversation. In addition, we should not use it in scenarios where using a pronoun instead of the generic “the” in this phrase is more appropriate or when “many” is a better choice than “much.”
Avoid using “much of the time” when time is a countable noun to indicate the number of times rather than the amount. We should use “many times” or other appropriate quantifiers in those scenarios.
Let’s consider the following statements and their more appropriate alternate options in each case.
- How much of the time did you eat dinner at home last week?
- Better: How many times did you eat dinner at home last week?
- Painting this room shouldn’t take much of the time (for us).
- Better: Painting this room shouldn’t take much of our time.
What Can You Use Instead of “Much of the Time”?
Since “much of the time” refers to an approximate amount of time as a percentage of the total time, we have a few options to replace it. Often, the alternative versions are helpful because they are more concise, like “often.”
Here are a few other words and phrases we can use to substitute “much of the time” and which might work better in some scenarios:
- Most of the time (when we know that the “much” refers to more than 50%)
- Sometimes (when we know that the “much” refers to less than 50%)
- Many a time
Here are some example sentences to show you how we can use these different words and phrases. However, note that using adverbs of frequency like “often” and “frequently” communicate a series of instances rather than one block of time.
- I often find myself lost in thoughts
- Many times, she walked home rather than driving.
- They spent most of the time looking for her earrings before the event
- He goes to the gym frequently.
- We attend the opera now and again.
Note that when we are using “much of the time” in a question, as in “How much of the time was spent actually working?” we cannot use all of the above alternatives, like “most of the time” or “sometimes.” Instead, use “much time”:
- How much time was spent actually working?
Be sure to read our article Is It Correct to Say “Much Time”? to understand more about the word “much” and its use with “time.”
The definition of an idiom is an expression that isn’t understood from the individual word meanings but has a distinct meaning of its own (source).
Phrases like “much of the time” are idiomatic because we use them to convey a vague sense of time rather than anything specific, and learning how and when to use phrases like these can be confusing for non-native speakers.
Some common idioms in English and a few specific to time include:
|Raining cats and dogs
|A heavy rain
|A stitch in time saves nine.
|We should fix problems now before they become bigger.
|Time passes quickly
|A whale of a time
|A lot of fun
This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
As you can see, idioms do not always mean the same as the words within them, but they make language exciting and fun. Check out our article Is It Correct to Say “And Then Some”? to learn more about idioms.
This article has shown you how and when to use the idiomatic phrase “much of the time.” It has also provided alternatives that work better in some scenarios. As you listen to others and read more, you will become more proficient in English and its quirks.
Learning idioms and phrases in any language takes time, and it’s sometimes frustrating thinking about what to say and worrying about its correctness. However, after reading this article, you are hopefully now comfortable with “much of the time”!