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In the following construction, can I use costed to mean consumed?

Working through these steps cost much time, but it was worthwhile to get a good outcome.

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    I'm sorry, but I don't really understand your question. Can you give us a little more context, or perhaps make it more clear what you're asking so we can give you a good answer? I don't see the word 'consumed' anywhere else in the sentence, so 'costed' can't refer to it; therefore I'm not really sure what you mean. I will say this: in your second sentence, it should say cost, not costed. – WendiKidd Apr 10 '13 at 20:36
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    Also see wiktionary's usage note for costed: «The only non-proscribed use is in the sense of “to give a cost to”. Where proper grammar is expected, use cost instead for non-specialized past-tense and past-participle uses such as answering the question “How much did it cost?”» – James Waldby - jwpat7 Apr 10 '13 at 21:13
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    @jwpat7: That's now three of us who've all posted links to different sites making the same point about "costed". The grammar obviously bothers us at least as much as OP's actual question (is the meaning okay?). – FumbleFingers Apr 10 '13 at 21:23
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    I think the question is probably NARQ because it is asking the meaning of a word in a sentence that doesn't fit grammatically. We can all try and guess what the author intended, or say what the word costed means in the general case, but when the grammar of the sentence is wrong we can't do better than that. If the OP is the author, the question should be rephrased into something answerable. Otherwise the question is probably NARQ. – Matt Apr 10 '13 at 21:36
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    @FumbleFingers In all fairness, the original question wasn't very readable before your edit. It makes much more sense now, however, so I've gone ahead and reopened it. Thanks for greatly improving the post! – WendiKidd Apr 10 '13 at 22:06
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The meaning is perfectly okay - it's an example of the extremely common Time is Money metaphor...

I spent the afternoon [doing such-and-such]

The grammar is wrong though - it should be cost, not costed...

When the verb cost means to be priced at or to cause loss or expenditure, it is uninflected in the past tense and as a past participle.

What that's saying is to cost is an Irregular Verb. The uninflected form (cost) is used for past as well as present tense in all except one specific case. The "regular, inflected" past tense form costed is only (and always) used when the verb has the modern sense of quantified/calculated the cost of [something].

It's "worth" pointing out that although he obviously didn't realise it, OP's own worthwhile reflects exactly the same metaphoric usage (worth = has the value of, and while references the duration of time spent). OP's alternative consumed is a completely different metaphor based on eaten = taken [in] = used up.


Not specifically part of OP's question, but this usage of much time wouldn't sound very natural to most Anglophones today (it's a bit archaic). We'd more likely say something like a lot of time, or many days.

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  • Surely you are right, but, only for the register, I noticed that CGE says: "when cost means 'estimate the monetary costs of doing or producing (something),' its past tense has the regular -ed inflection". – user114 Apr 10 '13 at 21:14
  • @Carlo_R.: Perhaps you can rephrase that (I don't see what you mean). It seems to me your CGE citation is saying exactly the same thing as my own quote from grammarist.com. What is "only for the register"? – FumbleFingers Apr 10 '13 at 21:17
  • Sorry FF, I was under the wrong impression that CGE says something different from grammarist.com. If you do not understand "only for the register", it is sure it is not idiomatic English. In fact it is a phrase I translated word-by-word from Italian just to say "just to say something that is not important". – user114 Apr 10 '13 at 21:28
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    @Carlo_R.: The standard way of putting that in English would be in passing, or by the way (or my idiomatic favourite, by the by). But I'll edit my answer to clarify - if even you misunderstood, I'm sure many other non-native speakers won't get it. – FumbleFingers Apr 10 '13 at 21:35
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    @EnglishLearner: Exactly. One of the most famous such usages being the UK govt's WW2 Careless talk costs lives campaign. But note that "cost" was never exclusively applied in monetary contexts. OED's current definition starts with That which must be given or surrendered in order to acquire, produce, accomplish, or maintain something - you don't always have to have money to pay a cost. – FumbleFingers Apr 12 '13 at 17:14
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As I understand your phrase, I would say:

Working with these steps took a lot of time, but they were worthwhile to get a good outcome.

took (past tense of take) refers to what occurred over a period of time. For example:

It took 3 hours to get into the theater.

It takes several days to receive the package.

In your phrase, I prefer a lot of instead of much, but I can't say if much is incorrect or not.

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You can use either cost or consumed, but I don't think they mean quite the same thing.

Consumed simply means something took a lot of time. My wife is an artisan, and some of her crafts are very time-consuming, in that they take days (if not weeks) to complete.

In your sentence, however, cost implies that not only did it take a lot of time, but that time was detrimental somehow. It could mean that workers were being paid (so it cost a lot of money), or it could mean that a project fell behind schedule (so we lost some time in our planned schedule).

So, if you want to imply that the extra time was worth some cost, cost is the better word to used. But if you only want to infer that the activity was painstaking and time-consuming, then consumed might be the better word.

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  • I think that cost/consumed distinction is a post-hoc rationalisation. Fire "consumes" things - come to that, consumption (TB) is pretty dire. And in any real-world context I can imagine, the actual use of the less-common "consumed" in OP's context would be in order to explain the very bad consequence of having fallen well behind schedule. In that context, cost could be neutral accounting terminology for a simple statement of fact, not an inquest into failings. – FumbleFingers Apr 11 '13 at 22:07
  • @FumbleFingers: Maybe I should have stated this explicitly: when I was "defining" cost vs. consume here, my scope was limited solely to the O.P.'s context; i.e., "cost time" vs. "consume time." You are right to point out that both words have meanings that go beyond those contexts, so this should not be taken as a defining answer for all situations. – J.R. Apr 12 '13 at 0:32
  • Yeah - I don't disagree with the basic principle that each different metaphoric reference works in a different way. Actually, the question text (which was pretty dire in the original form, as I'm sure you know) has now been changed again in a way that emphasises OP's use of the alternative consumed. I think to some extent the TIME IS FOOD metaphor is actually a subset of TIME IS MONEY as per my link to John Lawler's piece on the subject (money = valuable/fundamental resource = food), but I prolly ought to edit my answer to address that usage too. – FumbleFingers Apr 12 '13 at 1:02

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