Phrase 1: It is high time we leave.

Phrase 2: It is high time we left.

Some opinions I have gotten so far imply that both are correct while some imply that only phrase 1 is correct.


The expressions "it's time" to express that something should happen now, or "about time" or "high time", when some action or event is overdue, are followed by a verb in a past tense, either simple or continuous: It's time we left. It's about time we were going. It's high time you got a job. It's time I cleaned my shoes.

Now if you feel that it is already late for something to happen, you can use the expression ‘It’s high time…’ This structure might look unusual, because it uses a past tense form to talk about the present or future.

Source: EnglishGrammar


We have the example - "It's high time we went", but you could also say:

  • It's time we went, or
  • It's about time we went

and you can use a continuous form as well:

  • It's time we were going
  • It's about time we were going, and
  • It's high time we were going

Source: Ask About English (BBC)

And a definition from M-W:

Definition of it's high time informal — used to say it is time to do something that should have been done a long time ago It's high time we made some changes around here.It's high time (that) you cleaned your room.

Source: Merriam-Webster


I did find this instance from an apparently competent writer in 1835...

Come, Miss Frivolity, it is high time we go, we have stood long enough...

...but even though that "bare infinitive" go might have been acceptable (to at least some native Anglophones) a couple of centuries ago, it certainly wouldn't be acceptable today. Nowadays we'd all "backshift" the verb tense to...

Come, Miss Frivolity, it is high time we went, we have stood long enough...

Here's a chart showing relative prevalence of the two forms...

enter image description here

Note that optional high in OP's high time context is essentially an "intensifier", meaning very much, completely (cf high summer, high noon, highly likely, etc .).

  • There is no "backshifting". There is just using the PP or not.
    – Lambie
    Jan 7 '20 at 22:43
  • 1
    I agree it's not a typical example of what's formally called backshifting (that's why I put it in "scare quotes"). Functionally speaking, I'd say all three plausible alternatives (It's high time we go,.. we went, we were gone) are actually subjunctive usages. But for the purposes of this answer I don't think the terminology as such is relevant - all that matters is we no longer use Infinitive / Present Tense verb forms in contexts like this - we "backshift" them to Past Tense. But if you think that's sloppy use of a technical term, I won't argue with you. Jan 8 '20 at 13:54

We use the expression it’s (high) time + subject + past verb form to say that something is already late and it should be done now.

It’s high time = It’s high time you got those shoes mended. The heel will fall off.

It’s time = It’s time you got those shoes mended. They may come apart. (This pattern shows a little less urgency)

(Copied from https://grammarforexperts.com/it-is-high-time-vs-it-is-time/)


Phrase one is wrong.This is the right construction:

High time for (sb) to do sth

High time (sb) did sth

So you can either say :

It is high time for us to leave,or

It is high time we left.


It is high time we left

The action of leaving would have been done earlier, but not done yet. So the correct way of grammatically correct usage is to complete the sentence with a verb in the past tense.


Both are correct. The only difference I can think of is, I would tend to say Phrase 1 to someone in my group, and Phrase 2 to someone who was not in my group.


'" It's high time we left " is the correct option owning to the fact that it expresses an action that ought to have taken place in the past.

  • 1
    Welcome and thanks for your answer. Since you're probably not aware, this community values well thought out answers that help the questioner learn and understand English better. Because I can't follow the logic of your answer I doubt any English learner would understand, so I'm going to vote this answer down. If you improve it by explaining it from the standpoint of grammar and meaning and let me know I might change my vote. Good answers are usually longer than one sentence. Please browse around and study the answers that get a lot of votes for tips.
    – dwilli
    May 31 '19 at 5:47

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