1. I am going to cook. I need to set a (or "the"?) timer for half an hour as I started roasting.
  2. Can I say "I need to time the roast for half an hour"?
  3. How do you usually say to express that idiomatically?

1 Answer 1


'To time' as a verb is usually used to suggest measuring a time, not setting one.

You might say:

I'm going to time myself cutting these carrots to see how quickly I can do it!

So, saying 'time the roast' conjures the image of you with a stopwatch waiting to find out how long it takes the roast to finish cooking!

Instead, you would say something similar to the sentence in your first point:

I need to set the timer for half an hour when I put the roast on.

  • Contextually it makes perfect sense to say time the roast. The day you see a roast running a footrace let me know. Only then will agree that timing a roast is confusing.
    – EllieK
    Jan 8, 2021 at 20:52
  • It isn't something I have ever heard anyone say. If somebody told me they were going to 'time the roast' I would think they were going to measure how long it took to cook, not set a timer for cooking it. The dictionary definition of the verb 'to time' is 'measure the time taken by'. Jan 8, 2021 at 21:05
  • 1
    "You’ve got to time the roast or it will get overdone." The sentence is from Cambridge Dictionary. They use "to time" and not "timer". Is it ok?
    – Vova
    Jan 8, 2021 at 23:01
  • Yes, but that's using it in a different way. If you look where that example comes from, it says 'to measure the seconds, minutes, and hours for something to happen or someone to do something'. That's different from setting a time using a timer. 'To time' can also mean to arrange or synchronize. That's the sense in which you would say you have to 'time a jump correctly' in a video game, for example. You might say you have to time the roast so that it's done at 12:00, for example. Jan 8, 2021 at 23:52
  • @EdwardPhillipHealy Cambridge disagrees. People say time the pizza or time the roast all the time. It means set a timer. Vova - feel free to time the roast. It only ever means one thing in that context. In your example time the roast means set a timer for X number of minutes.
    – EllieK
    Jan 11, 2021 at 19:27

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