a long time passing: overdue, a long time ago/to pass?


Senior Member
Hi there,

I realized I'm not sure what "a long time passing" means. Does it mean "overdue," "a long time ago," or "it took a long time to pass"?

Song lyrics are not very helpful. What the ones below seem to suggest is that it doesn't mean "overdue" -- and yet in some contexts it could be interpreted like that.
(As in
"That took you a long time."
"It was a long time passing.")

So now the song:
"Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago"
("Where Have All the Flowers Gone"
music and lyrics by Pete Seeger)

Thank you!
Last edited:
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    'Long time passing' in the song is an ungrammatical and asyntactical expression.
    It is not good English, nor is it correctly incorporated in a proper sentence.
    I've always understood it as an attempt to say 'over a long period of time'.


    Senior Member
    Hi wandle, thank you for your help! "Over a long period of time" is the definition that now feels right to me as well, but, still, given that song, I wonder if maybe in the US "long time passing" can also be used to mean "a long time ago"!?


    Senior Member
    English - US
    No. It doesn't mean "a long time ago" in the song either. Perhaps a less poetic example will help you.
    "Mother was in the hospital with terminal cancer for six months before she finally passed."
    "Yes, she was a long time passing."


    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    In Myridon's example, "passing" is a euphemism for dying.

    In the song, "long time passing" fits the rhythm of the melody and is basically short for "a long time has passed by". (That kind of thing can't be done in conversation or prose writing, but songs and poems offer a lot of leeway for departures from the normal rules of grammar.)
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