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I was wondering is there a shorter way of saying 'a quarter minutes ago', or 'half an hour ago' in the following scenario:

The elevator is not working now, but it was working a quarter minutes ago.

Could you suggest a shorter phrase to use instead?

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    How about 15 seconds ago, or 30 minutes ago?
    – 1Fish_2Fish_RedFish_BlueFish
    Feb 15 '16 at 12:47
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    It's not hugely shorter but by one word... a quarter minute ago (which sounds weird) to me versus 15 minutes ago. Same with half an hour ago versus 30 minutes ago so yes, only shorter by one word even if you spell out the numbers but no huge difference for sure... just quick thought I had for your question.
    – 1Fish_2Fish_RedFish_BlueFish
    Feb 15 '16 at 12:52
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    "A quarter minutes ago" does not compute. "A quarter minute ago" would be 15 seconds. "A quarter hour ago" would be 15 minutes. Except perhaps in certain stiffly formal situations (formal wedding invitations, eg) there is no reason you cannot use the "15 seconds" or "15 minutes" form (spelling out "fifteen" if you wish), if that is easier for you to understand/say.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 15 '16 at 13:58
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    (Perhaps it's not clear to you that "a quarter" means "one fourth" or "1/4" -- it does not mean "fifteen". A US "quarter" coin, eg, is a quarter of a dollar or 25 cents.)
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 15 '16 at 14:00
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    @MarkBannister in persian, you can say it in two words :)
    – joker13
    Feb 15 '16 at 15:30
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Based on these comments you made:

  • What I try to say is something about approximately 15 minutes ago
  • doesn't using '15 minutes' make it to sound more accurate than using 'a quarter'?
  • a word less is really better

It sounds like you are looking for a concise way to say an approximate time.


My answer is aimed at suggesting a short phrase that means a short but unspecified amount of time. (I'm not looking to give you a phrase that is exactly equivalent to 15 minutes, or 15 seconds, because I don't believe that's what you're after.)

With that in mind, I suggest the phrase just now:

The elevator is not working, but it was working just now.

Collins defines just now as: "a very short time ago." Vocabulary.com defines it as an adverbial phrase meaning: "only a moment ago." TFD defines it like this:

just now a short time ago : I came from a meeting just now where the governor said he would veto the proposed law.

The phrase could be used to mean a few seconds ago, or a few minutes ago, depending on the situation.

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  • Thank you very much for your informative answer and also for the links. vocabulary.com is surprisingly helpful for practicing vocab.
    – joker13
    Feb 16 '16 at 19:30

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