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Q1: If I have lots of things to do and think about and can't do or think anything else, can I say:

I have no room for other things in my mind.

or is it better to use the following?

I have no space for other things.

I don't know whether this sounds all right, but I'd like to know the appropriate response in this situation. Or if there's another way of saying it, please let me know.


Q2: Also, if someone asks me to do something, is it all right to say this?

I have no room for that right now.

or is it better to say the following?

I have no space for that right now.

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I have no room for other things in my mind.
I have no space for other things.

Both of these are figurative speech, and they are acceptable as is. One might add the word extra or spare as well:

There's no spare room for anything else in my mind.
I have no extra space for new things in my brain right now.

(I decide to change the way you said other things, because it's hard to figure out what "things" are in your mind already, and what other things you don't have any room for.)

But, yes, you can use words like space when talking about the brain for the mind. In fact, the word attic is sometimes used to refer to the mind metaphorically, because it's in the upper part of our body, and it's used to store things. Doyle used this analogy in 1887, in a Sherlock Holmes story:

“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.” (Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet)

As you guessed, words like space and room can also be used for a schedule, as well as a brain:

I'm sorry, I'm too busy; I don't have room to meet this week. Can we try for next week? I have more free space on my calendar then.

In addition to brains and calendars, you could also use such words to describe, say, a person's frustration level. For example:

My car won't start! Dammit! I don't have room for this right now.

might mean that the speaker is under a lot of stress, and this isn't a good time for his car to break down. Here's another example from a book:

As much as I don't have room for this in my life right now, I can't help but be intrigued. “What kind of plan?” I ask. (N.L. Shepherd, Stealing Bases)

  • Thank you very much. I was able to get the very clear ideas of how to use these two words. All the example sentences you wrote are very clear and easy to understand. Now I think I know how to use them clearly, so I'll try to use them at work. Thank you so much for taking your time. – tennis girl Apr 1 '13 at 7:41
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Answer to Q1: You can say I have no {time / energy [CHOOSE ONE]} to do or think about other things right now. It's perfectly reasonable English.

To use only I have no {room / space [CHOOSE ONE]}", the rest of the sentence has to be restricted "to think about other things right now".

Answer to Q2: You can say I have no {time / energy [CHOOSE ONE]} {for / to do [CHOOSE ONE]} that right now. Using room or space is semantically incorrect.

  • Thank you for your answer. In Japanese, " Yoyuganai" I wanted to translate this. Is it also possible to say " I have some room to think about other things" ? It means "yoyugaaru". Sorry about using Japanese, but I just found out that you taught English in Japan. – tennis girl Mar 31 '13 at 12:59
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    @tennisgirl: It's metaphorical, of course, but you can say it. I think a native Anglophone would be more likely to say something like "I can't think about that right now because I have too many other things on my mind" or "I can think about that right now". Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes say that he he had no room in his brain for irrelevant information, specifically that the Earth orbits the sun instead of vice versa, because that knowledge didn't help him solve crimes: brain cells provide vast yet limited storage space. If you use 日本語, please use 漢字 (easier to understand than ローマ字). – user264 Mar 31 '13 at 13:34
  • Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions. Sometimes if I try to translate, it doesn't work well. But What I wanted to know is how native people say in this situation, so now it's very clear. In Japanese 余裕 we use very often, so how I can translate this into English, I wondered. – tennis girl Mar 31 '13 at 13:53
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    @tennisgirl: One possible translation of that term is "time"; another is "room"; and another is "scope". Fundamentally, they all mean the same thing, but the English words aren't interchangeable: each has specific usage rules and idiomatic associations that govern which one should be used in any particular context. It'd take me too long to explain and illustrate the differences, but you should be able to find usage examples in an advanced learner's dictionary (Macmillan's a good one) or a thesaurus. – user264 Mar 31 '13 at 14:05
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    I'm very grateful for all your explanations. What you wrote is really a big help to me. And that's why English is difficult, but also that's why studying English is interesting and so much fun. Thank you very much. I'll try to check the dictionary. – tennis girl Mar 31 '13 at 14:40

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