English as a Second Language/up or over?


Dear Shannon,
I often hear or read "time is up" and "game is over" but not "time is over" and "game is up". To me, both mean the same! What is the difference\grammar involved?
Please give me some details and guidelines.
Thanks for your continuous support.
Best regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

Unfortunately, with phrasal verbs and idioms, you cannot always make grammatical sense out of why one word is preferred over another.  The expressions are "time is up" and "game is over."  If you change the words, you change the meanings.

The time is up.  Put your pencils down and close your exam books.  [We have just reached the time limit of a task.]

The game is over with the Cardinals winning 4 - 0 against the Mets. [A literal ending to a game or match.  It can also be used to mean the end of some ongoing task, usually unpleasant in nature].

The game is up, Harry.  We have caught you and your gang robbing the bank on camera.  You're under arrest. [Always used to imply the end of some unpleasant scheme, plan, or action].

The time for contributions to the project is over.  We have already started a new task. [We have already passed, at some point in the past, the time limit.]

English as a Second Language

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of www.coleinstitute.com, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

Past/Present Clients
I have clients worldwide, some who want their documents proofread, and others who take lessons with me through the Internet. Some work at high-profile companies and government organizations. Besides the U.S. and Mexico, my recent students come from South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Colombia, Russia, Italy, Paraguay, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.