Tell me please if I need to use the before time in the following senteces.

As (the) time goes by people are getting smarter.

Ancient people learnt how to make better tools as (the) time went by.

I have definitely heard a native english speaker use the before time in similar context when talking about the past, but what about the present?

  • I think I have already answered this question from you in the past: abstract words don't generally take the: happiness, time, unhappiness, Time in your sentence is both an abstract idea and an uncountable noun. Tempus fugit=in Latin, that means Time Flies. However, with a genitive, it would take the: The time of day is easy to read on that watch face. The time of day.
    – Lambie
    Apr 1, 2018 at 17:05
  • Lambie: I am aware that with abstract nouns articles are not generally used, but I have heard a native enlish speake use "the" with "time" in the context similar to that I have given, and that confused me. Apr 1, 2018 at 17:40
  • You have heard something like: The time of day I like best is X; that time of life is difficult, We had the time of our lives; The time I went to London [which is countable]. Time as given on a clock or as the passage of time does not take "the". In your sentences, the is wrong. There is a famous British comedy called: As Time Goes By
    – Lambie
    Apr 1, 2018 at 17:56
  • 1
    @DmytroO'Hope Before I saw your last comment, I was just about to say that I could imagine someone using "as the time went by" in a situation like: "Around 1500, the situation was such-and-such, but already in 1800, the situation was completely different. So, as the time went by, people learned to blah-blah-blah." The speaker would refer to a span of time that they are keeping in the back of their mind (in this example, 3 centuries).
    – user68912
    Apr 1, 2018 at 18:42
  • 1
    @DmytroO'Hope But please note that this is just how this particular speaker chooses to frame his narrative. It does not mean that if there is a span of time to be detected anywhere in the context, one should use "the". Nope. This is this speaker's private choice of framing his narrative as a description of a certain arc of development of events. In fact, this "the" might be the only indication that this speaker thinks this way. The choice of "the" expresses something very specific. You shouldn't take it as a guidance for your usage.
    – user68912
    Apr 1, 2018 at 19:16

1 Answer 1


"Time" with the definite article would signify a specific time, as in,

Do you remember the time when we were so poor we had to eat ramen?

or Michael Jackson's famous song:

Do you remember the time

When we fell in love

Do you remember the time

When we first met, girl

Even if "the time" is not followed by "when.....", it will normally be specified elsewhere in the text, or the speaker will allude to a specific time that the person s/he is speaking to would remember.

Those were the times!

is a phrase that would be used when someone is being nostalgic, after mentioning which time(s) exactly that was/were (college years, or else).

Another option:

I could have baked three cakes in the time it took you to bake just one!

Here again, "the time" is defined as that specific stretch of time in which this person baked a cake.

Your examples just refer to the general passage of time, not to specific stretches of it. So no article is necessary.

  • That's right. Time is an abstract noun there.
    – Lambie
    Apr 1, 2018 at 17:59

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