a matter of time: meaning and explanation

If you say that it is just/only a matter of time until something happens, you are saying that it will definitely happen – the only thing you are unsure about is when/how long it will take.

For example – imagine you know someone who is a very dangerous or careless driver. You are sure that at some point he will have an accident. You might say – it’s just a matter of time until he has an accident.

We can also use this expression to talk about things that happened in the past. Looking back, we can see that it was always certain to happen. e.g. He was always a very difficult child, so it was only a matter of time until he got in serious trouble.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: Ireland

He's , so I'm a time until he with .
He's a guy, so I'm it's just a of time until he down with .

…until he settles down with someone…

The phrasal verb to settle down means that your life becomes more stable and fixed, usually in terms of starting a family, or moving to a home or area in which you expect to stay for a long time.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Are you certain about something happening, but are unsure about when it will happen? Tell me about it using this expression.
  • Can you think of anything that happened (to you, or in general) which was inevitable/just a matter of time?

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