I wonder how these two verbs differ in meaning? I know that You spare time for your loved ones, but You spend time with your loved ones. However, it is difficult to distinguish between them in an example like the following one:

  • I need to have a word with you please. Could you ......... a few minutes?
    a. spare
    b. spend

I have encountered "spare" in above sentence many times, but I need to know the logic behind that! Why "spend" does not work here, while semantically and based on dictionary definitions it should work? Please do me a favor and explain that to me.

  • 8
    In English the usage of time in this context aligns with usage of money. Does that assist in terms of idioms from languages you are more familiar with?
    – jwpfox
    Nov 8, 2020 at 19:24
  • Exactly @jwpfox. That was really helpful. Thank you very much for the smart point.
    – A-friend
    Nov 8, 2020 at 19:29

5 Answers 5


You ask someone else is they can spare the time for something.

Excuse me, could you please spare a few moments of your time?

If you refer to yourself

I can spare some time to talk to you

it makes you sound self-important or condescending.

In the context of your loved ones, again it makes it seem that they are unimportant, if you say you can spare some time to be with them. So

I like to spend time with my loved ones.

You can also ask someone to spend some time with you, if you want to be friendly:

I'd really like it if you could spend some time with me.

If you can spare some time, you make the time available.
If you spend time, you are using the time that you have.

To complicate it slightly further, you might have some spare time that you can spend doing something.


To spend time means to do something during that time. One can spend time with family, taking a walk, working, idling.

To spare time means that something that came up that could use up some of your time. If you spare it some time, you then spend some time on it. The sparing is generally when it's scheduled -- even if it's immediate.


"Spend time" is simply a statement. You may have plenty of uncommitted time, and spending some of it with loved ones is just what you do. "Spare time" implies that you really have other things you'd rather do with that time, so you're making a sacrifice to spend it with loved ones.


They're effectively opposites that fit together.

To spare time is to avoid doing anything (else) for that period of time.

To spend time doing something is to occupy yourself with something for that period of time.  (You wouldn't normally speak of ‘spending time’ without specifying what you were doing.)

So you can spare some time in order to spend it on something particular.

You can spare time for someone/something — that is, to reserve the time in order to spend it with someone or doing something.  You might ask someone “Can you spare me ten minutes?”, asking whether they can avoid doing anything else for ten minutes so that they can spend it with you or doing something for you.


Time is a resource, quite like money. You can spend it on an activity, and you might have some that you can spare for something unexpected (like a request from a friend).

So these are likely sentences:

  • "Can you spare ten minutes to help me with this?"
  • "Let's spend an hour looking for the problem.
  • This analogy was in comment to the question, but needs to be in an answer too. Nov 10, 2020 at 14:38

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