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Is “Timeframe” One Word or Two?

Compound words are simple. They consist of two words that combine to form a new one, and the new word’s meaning relates to its roots. “Timeframe” is one of these. But, is it written as one or two words?

Linguistically, “timeframe” is two words, but grammatically, “timeframe” and “time frame” are both correct. It is a compound of the words “time” and “frame” and is proper as an open or closed compound. Americans prefer the open form, “time frame,” over the closed form, “timeframe.”

As we continue, we’ll look more into this compound, how it functions in a sentence, and the proper ways to use it.

How Do You Use “Timeframe”?

“Timeframe” is defined as “the period of time during which something happens or must happen” (source). It is a noun and acts as a sentence’s subject or object. “Timeframe” is commonly used as an object because a timeframe is inanimate and cannot act by itself. However, there are still ways to use “timeframe” as a sentence subject.

  • The short timeframe looms over this project.

“Timeframe” is the subject (purple) of this sentence and enacts the verb (red) “looms,” but it only “looms” because its shortness applies pressure to the project. The “timeframe” is not causing the action because it cannot make itself “short” or “loom.”

  • My manager gave a fair timeframe to finish this project.

In this example, “timeframe” is a direct object (green). The “manager” is the subject who “gave” the “timeframe.” You’ll see “timeframe” as an object more often than a subject.

“Timeframe” is the singular form of this compound, and “timeframes” is its plural form. Only “frame” receives the plural designation. If you write it in its open form, the correct spelling is “time frames,” not “times frame” or “times frames.”

As mentioned above, “time frame” is the preferred form of the compound; however, both the open and closed forms are acceptable as long as they are consistent throughout a written work (source). If you start using “timeframe,” don’t switch to “time frame” part way through your writing.

When Can You Use “Timeframe”?

You should use “timeframe” when talking about how long something takes, such as a school assignment or a household chore. You may use it in any of the three verb tenses.

PastThe professor gave us the timeframe for our assignments in the syllabus.
PresentThe professor gives us the timeframe for our assignments in the syllabus.
FutureThe professor will give us the timeframe for our assignments in the syllabus.

Notice that “timeframe” is the same across all three tenses. It’s a noun, and nouns stay the same no matter what tense you use them in.

We also use this term to denote a specific period or when the amount of time is unknown. Here we see the “timeframe” explicitly defined as “six days.”

  • Is six days a long enough timeframe to see results?

Whereas in the following sentence, the “timeframe” is not defined but refers to an indefinite period of time. We sometimes use “timeframe” to denote a general period rather than a clear, set timespan.

  • Perhaps a more extended timeframe is necessary.

When Not to Use “Timeframe”

Though we define “timeframe” as a period of time, do not use it to refer to stretches of history. The “Jurassic Period” cannot be referred to as the “Jurassic Timeframe.” Likewise, the 21st Century is known as “The Digital Age,” not “The Digital Timeframe.”

“Timeframe” refers to a singular task or event with an identifiable start and finish. Periods of history consist of a collection of events. There are an endless number of events with “timeframes” within a period of history; however, history itself is not a “timeframe.”

What Can You Use Instead of “Timeframe”?

There are a limited number of synonyms for “timeframe.” These are “interval,” “period,” “stretch,” “lapse of time,” “span,” and “timespan” (source). “Period of time” and “amount of time,” which come directly from the definition of “timeframe,” work as well. Simply replace “timeframe” with one of these terms, and you’re good to go.

Here’s an example of replacing “timeframe” with its synonyms.

  • Let’s determine the timeframe of this project before we start working on it.
  • Let’s determine the timespan of this project before we start working on it.
  • Let’s determine the period of this project before we start working on it.
  • Let’s determine the amount of time this project will take before we start working on it.

Whenever you replace “timeframe” with “amount of time” or “period of time,” ensure that you do not follow with another prepositional phrase beginning with “of,” as we did in the first three sentences. This will keep you from sounding repetitive and choppy.

“Timespan” is the closest to “timeframe” and is, therefore, the easiest to use if you need a term other than “timeframe,” but any of them will work for most situations.

In What Context Can You Use “Timeframe”?

We use “timeframe” in any setting to refer to the amount of time something will take. “Timeframe” is relevant for talking about definite periods, such as days and months, or unknown spans you need to ask about: “What is this project’s timeframe?”

There are some situations where a “timeframe” is discussed but not yet known. The term “timeframe” is helpful since it acts as a placeholder while speakers work out the exact amount of time.

Say your boss wants to know how much longer you need to finish a project, but you’re unsure how much more time the project requires. You can use “timeframe” to talk about the amount of time you need without actually knowing how much time that is.

Using “timeframe” allows for coherent discussion about unknown time periods and gives room to define how much time is necessary. Once one establishes a “timeframe,” the term remains relevant for further discussions.

This compound is prevalent in the workplace and refers to work projects and events. Meetings, emails, and many discussions take place over how long specific tasks take, so it makes sense to use “timeframe” during these discussions.

“Timeframe” is relevant whether the project in question is long-term or short-term, so long as you use it to refer to a single task.

Timeframes and Deadlines

One specific use of “timeframe” is to set deadlines for projects and assignments. For example, setting a 24-hour timeframe for a school assignment means the assignment is due in the next 24 hours.

Here, you can use “fair,” “unfair,” “reasonable,” “unreasonable,” “short,” or “long” to describe “timeframe.” These adjectives pertain to the deadline set by the “timeframe,” how it relates to the amount of time the task should take, and the feelings prompted by this deadline.

Short and Long Timeframes

“Short” and “long” are relative to every situation. These terms do not indicate exact amounts of time but depend on the circumstances.

If you’re planning your work schedule one month in advance, a seven-day “timeframe” seems “short,” but a six-month “timeframe” seems “long.” At the same time, if you only look two days ahead, the seven-day “timeframe” seems “long.”

There are infinite ways to interpret “short” and “long” because they are relative to personal interpretation and perspective.

Fair and Unfair Timeframes

“Fair” and “unfair” relate to the morality of the “timeframe.” In the context of deadlines, it is wrong to set a “timeframe” that’s clearly too short for the time needed to complete a task. That is an “unfair timeframe.”

A “fair timeframe” sets a deadline with enough time to finish the task. If you have a task that takes three days to complete, a one-day “timeframe” is “unfair,” but a four-day “timeframe” is “fair.”

Reasonable and Unreasonable Timeframes

“Reasonable” and “unreasonable” pertain to things that make logical sense. It’s logical to give a work project that needs two weeks to complete a “timeframe” of 15 days. That makes it “reasonable.”

For the same project, a six-month “timeframe” is excessive while a six-day “timeframe” is too short. Neither makes sense, so both are “unreasonable.”

Multiple combinations are possible with these six adjectives, but not all logically pair when describing a “timeframe.” Take a look at this table to see the possible pairings:


One odd thing to note is that it’s possible to call a “timeframe” both “fair” and “unreasonable.” How does this happen?

A six-month “timeframe” is technically “fair” if set for a project that takes one day; however, this is an excessive amount of time. Thus, it’s “fair” yet “unreasonable.” It works the same in reverse where an “unreasonable timeframe” is also “fair.”

Using “Timeframe” in a Full Sentence

Knowing a compound’s definition and using it in a full sentence are two different things. We’ve walked through how “timeframe” fits into a complete sentence, but it helps to see further uses of the term to understand its role.

Here are more examples of how to use this compound.

“Timeframe” as the subject (purple):

  • Is the timeframe long enough to finish the expense report?
  • The two-week timeframe is enough time to research and write this paper.
  • My daily timeframe for chores is almost too short to finish my chores.

“Timeframe” as an object (green):

  • The consulting agency boasts a short timeframe to see results from their advice.
  • Let’s assess this study after the six-month timeframe to see the outcome.
  • Compare shipping companies to see who offers the best timeframe for shipment.
  • In what timeframe would you like your furniture and boxes moved to the new house?

What are Open, Closed, and Hyphenated Compounds?

English grammar has three different types of compounds: open (two separate words), closed (one word), and hyphenated (a hyphen between two words).

Image by Eli Verenich via Pexels

Here’s an example of each so you can see the differences between each form:

OpenTime frameInk wellTea pot

Initially, there is no preferred form for a newly created compound. When someone first introduces the compound, it starts in the open form and transitions into the closed or hyphenated form as the compound is commonized (source).

If you want to use a compound but are unsure which form it takes, check a dictionary to learn its correct form. You can’t use all compound words in all three forms because some have different meanings as denoted by form. 

Though the preferred form changes over time, the best practice is to use the correct, up-to-date form to avoid misunderstandings in your writing.

We have another great article with more information about the different types of compounds. Head over to “Long-Term or Long Term: Is It an Open, Hyphenated, or Closed Compound?” to check it out.

In the following sections, we’ll look at common compounds of each type. Americans generally prefer these compounds in the forms you see below.

Open Compounds

  • Peanut butter
  • Ice cream
  • Living room
  • High school
  • Post office

Closed Compounds

  • Notebook
  • Sunflower
  • Newspaper
  • Haircut
  • Keyboard

Some compounds are only proper in their closed form. Read “Is “Summertime” One Word or Two?” to learn about one of these and its uses.

Hyphenated Compounds

  • Two-fold
  • Long-term
  • Full-time
  • One-half
  • Empty-handed

Hyphenated Compound Adjectives

Some compounds function as adjectives and only receive a hyphen when they appear in the sentence before their attached noun. If they come after the noun, they remain in the open form instead. Look at these contrasting sentences to see this hyphen rule in action:

“Overly-large” and “overly large”:

  • The partners ensure they receive overly-large bonuses each year.
  • The partners’ yearly bonuses are overly large.

“Five-minute” and “five minutes”:

  • We have a five-minute walk to the subway.
  • The walk to the subway takes five minutes.

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See our article “Real Time or Real-Time: When to Use a Hyphen (And When to Skip It)” to learn more about hyphen usage.

Final Thoughts

Compound words may seem difficult. There are different rules on how to use them in their various forms. Moreover, they bring new meanings to the already-extensive English dictionary.

With our help and some practice, you’ll face no trouble learning, understanding, and using compound words. Follow our tips, practice them in writing, and you’ll see two-fold results in a short timeframe!