Fact Checked

What Does It Mean to "Make Good Time"?

Jim B.
Jim B.

"Make good time" is an English idiom that refers to someone who is ahead of schedule with some sort of project or trip. The phrase is often used when someone is taking a road trip somewhere and has a certain amount of time scheduled for the duration. If they "make good time," it means that they will arrive at their destination well ahead of the time allotted for the whole trip. This phrase can also be used when someone is trying to do a job and is making better progress than he or she might have originally expected.

On certain occasions, people who are speaking English may look for ways to add some expressiveness and impact to their conversations with others. One good way to do this is through the use of idioms. Idioms are short phrases that may seem to mean one thing based on the literal definitions of the words they contain, but instead have unique meanings that come to be accepted in the culture in which they are used. Many idioms have to do with time and how it is managed by people, including the phrase "make good time."

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

Any time that this particular idiomatic expression is used, it means that someone is doing something at a fast pace. It also implies that there was a preconceived notion on behalf of the speaker about how long that it was going to take to get the thing done. The fast pace means that the person will finish ahead of schedule. As an example, someone might say, "I didn't think he'd make good time with that project, but it's done already."

The most common way that this specific phrase is used comes in association with road trips. When a person or a group of people sets out on a long journey, usually by car, they often attempt to gauge how long it will take to reach their destination. If they are reaching certain landmarks along the way faster than expected, it is often cause to use this idiom. For example, someone might say, "We should make good time if we continue to move at this pace and don't hit any traffic."

This is one idiom where the meaning has strayed far from the literal definitions of the words within it. Obviously, it would be impossible for anyone to actually make time. The figurative implication is that, by coming in ahead of schedule, some extra time is created for the person who is able to "make good time."

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I remember when I worked at a factory assembling electric motor parts, the supervisor would set a hourly rate for finished units. If I was assigned to a simpler model, I was expected to produce 45 an hour. If I was assigned to a more complicated motor, the rate might be set at 15 an hour.

There were some days when I struggled to meet that hourly quota, but other days when I was making good time. I think the difference was finding more efficient ways to move the parts into position and reset the work station for the next run. Just changing a few steps along the way would help me make good use of my time. I actually got a raise because I found ways to make twice as many motors per hour than the standard rate. Making good time has its rewards.


About once a year, my wife and I take a trip to the cemetery where most of her ancestors are buried. The entire route is along two-lane state highways, not Interstates. We've been doing this for a long time. It's amazing to see how long it takes to reach our destination from year to year.

There are some years when we get behind slow-moving traffic or the weather is bad and the trip seems to take two hours. Other years, we are the only car on the road and the skies are clear. We arrive in less than a hour and a half. We've started noticing that we're making good time by watching out for certain landmarks. If we reach a restaurant within 30 minutes on the road, we know we're doing well. If we haven't reached a town in an hour, we know we're losing ground.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Woman standing behind a stack of books
      Woman standing behind a stack of books