Phrase of the day: What time…?

Now, some of you may have been thinking that ‘chunk of the day’ had turned into ‘chunk of the month’ – or even ‘chunk of the year’! I’m afraid we’ve been a bit busy and perhaps a bit depressed by how in the run up to the election has turned into the aftermath of the election. You might also be thinking, “What the .. How can what time be a chunk?’. Or perhaps you’re thinking, ‘Hey, isn’t that one of the first things you learn in a language? What’s so new and interesting about that?’ Fair enough on both counts in a way – until you actually start thinking about the limits that are imposed on What time … in most courses. Having recently been to St. Petersburg, I’ve started thinking about learning Russia again and in an idle moment this morning, I learned the question What time is it? Next, though, I  want to know how to say these questions:

What time?

What time is (your) flight/train?

What time does it start?

What time does it finish?

What time are we leaving?

What time do we need to leave?

What time do I need to get up?

What time did you get up?

What time does your flight/train arrive?

What time are we having lunch / dinner?

What time do you want to go?

What time do you want to have dinner?

What time will you be back?

What time did you get back (home / to the hotel)

What time did you go to bed?

I would say that during my recent visit, I would’ve asked most, if not all, of these questions. I think we could see these as chunks based on What time..? or of course we could see each question as a whole chunk in its own right. It’s a kind of lexical set based around what time, which we might learn in the same way as we learn a lexical set of fruit, for example with the chunks and some translations, perhaps. Will it work? I can’t say I have tried it yet, but I don’t see why not.

Of course, a traditional grammar building block + words approach would not allow such a thing: ‘we have past and future here, for heaven’s sake. Are you mad?’

However, the mad thing to me is not learning this kind of thing (especially given that the answers will all be similar!) and even crazier is the absence of a question such as What time does it start? from many Elementary books because it has a future meaning!

This is a classic example of the value of thinking more lexically and I hope you will be persuaded that it’s worthy of being chunk(s) of the day!

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