I've had an English test recently. And there I had to choose a correct item:

  • The online courses really take the pressure off because you can spend your time till you understand it all.

  • The online courses really take the pressure off because you can take your time till you understand it all.

I chose first item (with spend), as I remembered some sentences with spend time such as: I spent a lot of time cleaning that room. But I made a mistake! The correct answer was The online courses really take the pressure off because you can take your time till you understand it all.

Why am I incorrect? What is the difference?


You could follow this logic: Imagine that time is money and that you are going shopping.

In the first case: you have a certain, limited amount of it and you decide how to spend it, but after you're done you have no more.

The second case: you need money (you don't know how much at the beginning). Wouldn't it be great if you had a limitless supply of it (in a bank nearby) and you could just waltz in and take as much as you need.

Similarly, with time: you need time to understand the contents of the course, and with an on-line course you can take as much as you need; in a classroom-based course your time is limited, sometimes you can spend it on understanding, and sometimes on, let say, copying homework from someone else (not that I would encourage such practice).

For a more formal explanation, the phrase: take one's time is idiomatic:

to be leisurely about doing something

(MW definition)


to go as slow as one wants or needs to; to use as much time as is required

(Definition from TFD)

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Let's say you are hiking high up in the mountains, and you come to a very narrow ledge. Your mountain guide might say:

Don't rush! Take your time.

Now let's say you have an important exam in school on Monday. But you do not study for it. Instead you play football all day Saturday, and all day Sunday you sit in front of the computer watching "epic fail" videos on YouTube. You can then write this email to your cousin:

I failed my history exam :( I spent all day Saturday playing football, and I spent all day Sunday watching YouTube videos.

Or maybe you decide to get a perfect result on your exam. Then you can write to your cousin:

I got the best grade in the class on our history exam. I spent all weekend studying for it.

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  • Good examples for spend. That's why it's wrong to say: In online courses, you can spend your time till you understand it all, but it would be okay to say, In online courses, you can spend more time understanding the material. – J.R. Apr 20 '15 at 8:57

According to Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms take your time means to not hurry:

Carlin took her time before she answered him.

Take your time - this is a big decision, and you don't want to rush into it.

For this reason you may select the word take which is appropriate in your context.

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According to Longman Dictionary Of Contemporary English:

Take your time means:

To do something slowly or carefully without hurrying

E.g.Marie took her time cutting my hair and did it really well.

So the second one seems correct.

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