What is the difference between "We're out of time." and "We're running out of time."?

Are they both correct phrases? And they have same meaning? Could you please tell me what is the difference.

3 Answers 3


Imagine a clock counting down from one hour to zero. When the clock hits zero, a bomb goes off. You have been sent in to defuse it.

At the beginning, you tell your boss, "Don't worry. An hour is plenty of time to defuse a bomb.

When the countdown hits five minutes and it still isn't defused, your boss tells you to hurry, because you're running out of time.

When the countdown hits zero and the bomb explodes, only then are you out of time.

In other words: "running out of time" implies that there is still a little bit of time left. Out of time means that there isn't.


We're out of time means that the allotted time has been used. It is finished.

We're running out of time means that we are coming to the end of your allotted time but there is still time if you hurry.

  • It's not obvious to me that this answer adds anything at all beyond what was already explained in an answer posted well over an hour earlier. Commented Apr 18, 2014 at 21:21
  • It is sometimes useful to have one explanation that uses an example, and one that just defines. Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 2:42

True and agreed to all answers here, but just to make it a bit technical. We can also say we ran out of time.

running in running out shows continuous tense there that means the thing is still going on. But then, if you use run/ran out, the continuity is gone which means the thing is over!

We were running out of time - This describes the continuous process i.e. you are still somewhere 'within the time specified'.
We ran out of time - the continuity is gone. You are not in that specific time limit anymore.

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