I am trying to cope with the ever increasing trend of new phrases in English language and found something.

I have heard many a times people use "Do you have a/the time?" In reply, either we say "Yes/No" depending upon our schedule or we tell the current time.

In which cases do we use a or the? Is it tense specific?

2 Answers 2


"Do you have the time?" would be used to ask what time it is currently.
"Do you have time?" would be used to ask if the person has time in their schedule.

To the best of my knowledge "Do you have a time?" is not used at all, at least in standard American English. It can however be used as a phrase in a larger question (as graciously pointed out by J.R.). An example of this could be "Do you have a time of the year you prefer?"

  • 1
    Indeed, "Do you have a time?" is not generally a standalone question. That said, the phrase "do you have a time" could be used in a few contexts. For example: Do you have a time when you want to meet? or, Do you have a time when you check ELL every day?
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 8:55
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    Excellent point @J.R. I didn't think about it as a phrase within a larger question. I will edit to address this.
    – Walter
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 12:22
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    There is also the exclamation, "We had a time!" meaning "We had a lot of fun" or "We did something exciting." But I've never heard someone ask, "Did you have a time?" to mean "Did you have fun?"
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 13:24

Largely ditto Walter. But two more things:

One: If you ask, "Do you have the time?" by itself, it means, "What time is it?" But if you've just described some assistance that you need or job that has to be done, it can mean, "Are you available to do this?" For example, "Someone is going to have to proof-read this report. Bob, do you have the time?"

Two: When asked with the meaning of, "What time is it?", it is phrased as a yes/no question, but the expected answer is to tell the person the time. That is: "Bob, do you have the time?" "It's 9:30." Or if you don't know, then to say, "Sorry, I don't know." Every now and then someone thinks he's being very funny and answers with a literal, "Yes, I do" and then walks away. It's the sort of gag that was no doubt very funny the first time someone did it, but has long since lost its humor value. Similarly, we often ask questions like, "Do you know Sally's email address?" when we really mean, "What is Sally's email address?" etc. Generally we phrase a question that way when we think it is likely that the person doesn't know, so it's really shorthand for, "Do you know X, and if so, will you please tell me X?" Don't answer "yes" and leave it at that. It's an idiom, we know what the person really means by the question, don't take it literally.

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