Rigel (rigel_7) wrote in fandom_grammar,

"Times like this" and "moments like these" with examples from NCIS

tigerlilly2063 asks: Why is it "times like this", but "moments like these"? When do you use each?

"It's moments like these you need Minties…"

If you are of Antipodean extraction and grew up in the '80's, you'll have immediately recognised that expression (one of the ads from the series for the curious). Because difficult times do call for delicious mint flavoured treats to help soothe the frustrated soul.

The two phrases are actually interchangeable. It's perfectly acceptable to use "moments like this" or "times like these", it all depends on that wonderful thing called context (and your local lingo).

Time, as Einstein famously said, is relative.

A moment is fleeting and brief; it passes in the blink of an eye. By its very nature, a moment is individual, never to occur again. It is singular. Therefore you would use the phrase "moments like this" in relation to occurrences that are unlikely to be repeated, and "moments like these" for repeated occurrences that are intermittent.

However, "this" and "these" are technically interchangeable. American usage tends more towards "moments like this" and British towards "moments like these", however your mileage may differ.

Tony glanced warily from side to side and on ascertaining the coast was clear, promptly released a wadded ball of paper aimed squarely at Ziva's head.
"It's moments like this, that make me wish I was permitted to tie you down to your desk," Ziva said through gritted teeth. "And perhaps I would place tape across your fat mouth as well!"
"I've been told my lips were more sensuous and… full--"
McGee snorted. "Of what? Cr—"
"Not another word, probie. Or I'll try for a three pointer in your direction with this nice paperweight you gave me last Christmas."

"Mr Palmer, you would do well to realise that it is in moments like these that your full and undivided attention is required." Ducky gave him another significant glance.
"I'll get the mop," Jimmy said sheepishly.

Time, of course, implies a longer period; an accumulated series of moments that are lumped together and related. It is plural.

But wait! Einstein said that light is both a wave and a particle, and so time is both an era and a moment. We ask: "What time is it?", referring to a singular point as well as "Is it that time of the month?", referring to a longer period (har har).

"This" and "these" are also interchangeable, but it is more correct to use "times like this" when referring to a singular occurrence and "times like these" when referring to longer, established episodes.

You're not leaving now are you Gibbs?" Abby injected what she thought was the subtlest hint of wheedle into her tone.
"Got to go, Abbs."
"But it's times like this I love the most. Just the two of us and Bert solving crimes through the most unlikely of confluences. We've got the blue moon equivalent of forensics here."
"That hippo is a menace."
"You don't mean that." She squeezed Bert until he gave his most disconsolate flatulent bellow.

"Where's that sorry excuse for a single malt that I know you have stashed away somewhere in here, Jethro?"
"One of those days is it, Tobias?" Gibbs slid an empty jar across the slab of wood he was sanding.
"Times like these…"
"Don't I know it."

So, in summation: Pay attention to the context that you are writing in, although technically you can't really go wrong.
Tags: !answer, author:rigel_7, usage:non-american, writing tips

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