Someone said to me "Id tempus est" (It is time) but that does not strike me as grammatical. I responded that "id" is a dummy pronoun and "Tempus est" should be correct instead but they responded that "id" refers to "tempus" and that it also means "It is this time".

Any opinion on this? I can't really explain it well and I may be wrong but I feel certain even though I can't find a good example.

What would be the correct translations for "it is time" and "it is this time"?

1 Answer 1


You're right that for "it is time" (i.e. "it is time to do something") you only need tempus est. Everyone knows Horace's nunc est bibendum...tempus, but also consider Plautus' tempus est subducere hinc me (Asinaria 912) or Tempus non est intro eundi (Mercator 916).

So if your interlocutor wants to say "it is time to drink", saying id tempus bibendum est is incorrect. You might just say tempus abire tibi est ne potum largius aequo in return!

But you can say id tempus if you are referring to a specific point in time. Here your interlocutor is correct: examples abound of it meaning "this time" or "that time". You'll see per id tempus or ad id tempus often in Caesar, where it means "during this time" or "at this time" respectively. However, id here is an adjective, and so cannot mean "it".

So yeah, they're technically correct when they say it can mean "it is this time", but even in English that sounds very strange. What does "it is this time" by itself even mean? In Latin, as in English, it looks incomplete, as if id tempus is instead the subject (like it is in the same phrasing in Celsus) and we're missing the rest of the sentence. This time is what, exactly? "This time [of the day] is for drinking"? Sure, I suppose you could technically say id tempus est bibendum, but id tempus then is the subject, not id, and in English, not it.

So while your interlocutor might have it right, they need to make sure they aren't using id as the subject of an impersonal construction and instead using it as an adjective. I'd then question a bit more what they actually mean when they say it is this time.

  • It could also be used for ‘this/that [thing] is time’. Commented May 25 at 11:06

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