Biding my time

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Li'l Bull

Senior Member
Spanish (Spain)
Hi, native speakers of English!

I'd like to know if the phrase "bide my/your... time" can be used with the meaning "to do something else while you're waiting for something that you're looking forward to". I'm asking you because it seems that the dictionary meaning is simply "to wait patiently for an opportunity to do something" but this definition doesn't really say whether you do something to kill time or just wait around.

In particular, this is the sentence where I'd like to use the phrase:

"Right now I'm biding my time watching films until the new season of my favourite TV series premieres."

What I mean is: "I'm so hooked on this series that every other film or series I watch is just a pastime until the new season (of my favourite series) arrives."

Can I use "biding my time" that way?

Thank you in advance.
 
  • Yes, you can, for example, be whistling a tune *while you bide your time* waiting for your friend to come home.

    You can watch a silly movie, biding your time till the good one turns up. It should be clear, however, what is the primary objective. It would a tiny bit odd to say, "I got married and had kids, biding my time till my 30th birthday, when I'd receive my inheritance."

    ==
    Incidentally, I would not agree with,

    "to do something else while you're waiting for something that you're looking forward to".

    biding means awaiting, holding off on some things while expecting another; waiting till the time is ripe or one 'gets lucky.' What you do in that time is up to you, but as I said above, that thing shouldn't be so involving that you're not actually 'waiting, but just having fun, all summer, drinking beer before school starts in the fall.

    I would say, "waiting for something which is of primary importance, possibly while doing something else of little importance, or something of no importance whatever, just to kill the time."
     
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    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    Yes, you can, for example, be whistling a tune *while you bide your time* waiting for your friend to come home.

    You can watch a silly movie, biding your time till the good one turns up. It should be clear, however, what is the primary objective. It would a tiny bit odd to say, "I got married and had kids, biding my time till my 30th birthday, when I'd receive my inheritance."

    ==
    Incidentally, I would not agree with,

    "to do something else while you're waiting for something that you're looking forward to".

    biding means awaiting, holding off on some things while expecting another; waiting till the time is ripe or one 'gets lucky.' What you do in that time is up to you, but as I said above, that thing shouldn't be so involving that you're not actually 'waiting, but just having fun, all summer, drinking beer before school starts in the fall.

    I would say, "waiting for something which is of primary importance, possibly while doing something else of little importance, or something of no importance whatever, just to kill the time."
    Thank you very much, bennymix. Just to be sure, does my sentence make sense/sound okay and idiomatic? (I'm concerned with the addition of "watching films" after "biding my time", i.e. "I'm biding my time watching films..". I mean, can you say "I'm biding my time doing [whatever]"?)
     
    Yes, you can mention the secondary activity as long as the primary objective remains clear. "I'm biding my time, this afternoon, watching movies; my fiancee arrives from France at 6 pm."

    It's really no different from the concept of waiting. Suppose you are going to visit a friend and you told him, 6 pm. You show up, unfortunately, at midnight. He says,
    "I was waiting for you." You notice a party has been going on all evening, your friend is apparently excited and having a great time. You might say, "I don't exactly see that you were *waiting* for me, but I'm glad you've had a great party."
     

    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    Yes, you can mention the secondary activity as long as the primary objective remains clear. "I'm biding my time, this afternoon, watching movies; my fiancee arrives from France at 6 pm."
    OK, so do I need so add a comma after "time", i.e. I'm biding my time, watching films until the new season..." or is it just fine as is?
     

    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    I would say, comma after time.

    Surely in Spanish you have words for 'waiting' and similar criteria for 'waiting for' as opposed to simply 'having a grand old time, until..." ?
    As for the comma, I'll follow your advice, and I guess that'll be it (I don't want to be a pest).

    With regard to your second sentence ("Surely in Spanish..."), I don't really know what you're getting at. :confused:
     
    You're not a pest. You're always welcome at the forum.

    Lil Bull: With regard to your second sentence ("Surely in Spanish..."), I don't really know what you're getting at. :confused:

    ==
    I said, [B:]"Surely in Spanish you have words for 'waiting' and similar criteria for 'waiting for' as opposed to simply 'having a grand old time, until..." ?"

    What I meant was, we were discussing 'biding one's time,' which is very much like 'waiting for.' And the issue was, Do these terms apply when the temporary activity is mentioned. "Biding my time for her arrival, I watched movies all day."

    What I was inquiring about, and guessing, is that in Spanish, you have similar words for 'biding' and 'waiting' and you must have rules for applying them, similar to what I said above in post #4. Namely, the secondary or 'biding' activity should not be too important, involving and engrossing; else the concept of 'waiting,' or 'biding ones time until" would not apply.
     

    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    ==
    I said, [B:]"Surely in Spanish you have words for 'waiting' and similar criteria for 'waiting for' as opposed to simply 'having a grand old time, until..." ?"

    What I meant was, we were discussing 'biding one's time,' which is very much like 'waiting for.' And the issue was, Do these terms apply when the temporary activity is mentioned. "Biding my time for her arrival, I watched movies all day."

    What I was inquiring about, and guessing, is that in Spanish, you have similar words for 'biding' and 'waiting' and you must have rules for applying them, similar to what I said above in post #4. Namely, the secondary or 'biding' activity should not be too important, involving and engrossing; else the concept of 'waiting,' or 'biding ones time until" would not apply.
    OK, I see what you mean. However, I try not to draw parallels between English and Spanish because the result is usually 'unidiomatic English'.

    I'm going to rephrase my sentence based on yours above (i.e. "Biding my time for her arrival, ..."). Can you please check that this one is a little better than the one in the OP:

    "Right now I'm just watching a few films, biding my time for the new season of my favourite series."
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    If I "bide my time", I wait patiently for an opportunity. I would never use it in the "watching a few films" example, which is more like "filling in time" till something interesting comes along. When you bide your time, you are waiting for the opportunity to arise for you to do something (actively). "I'm biding my time till my opponent makes a fatal mistake: then I'll get my revenge."
     
    Hi Vel,
    So while I bide my time, am I allowed to whistle a tune? buy (and eat) an ice cream cone? glance at a newspaper (several pages) ?

    I would never use it in the "watching a few films" example, which is more like "filling in time" till something interesting comes along.

    This does not quite fit the last of the OP's examples:

    "Right now I'm just watching a few films, biding my time for the new season of my favourite series."

    He is patiently waiting for the new season to start, not simply "waiting for something interesting to come along."

    I agree with your basic idea, that one can't get too distracted, and addressed it in post #4. There is definitely an element of attention and intention in 'biding,' as in 'awaiting.' But minor or secondary activities are not proscribed, in my opinion, so long as the person 'biding' keeps to his primary objective. If it's to kill Tony Soprano, when he emerges from a meal at the restaurant, the shooter, biding his time, may glance at the paper, though I'd worry if he got too deep into a crossword puzzle. That's the way I see it. :)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Hello, bennymix,

    I feel we are on different wavelengths here. :) I don't have a problem with someone doing all manner of things as he bides his time: the important thing is that he's waiting with intent, not just patiently for something that he will consume passively. When the new season starts, so what? Is he going to take that as a signal to start an "unlimited free access to my favourite T.V. series" campaign? The point of biding one's time is that you are waiting to do actively something, but the right moment hasn't yet arrived.

    I totally agree with the Tony Soprano example. Here's another one: "Dr. Jennifer Murphy played it cool, continuing their three sessions a week and endlessly humouring Tony, just biding her time until the opportunity should arise when she could catch him off his guard and shoot the b*****d."
     
    Interesting point, vel. So it's the thing awaited that's the issue, not the secondary activities. I kind of agree. I await the appearance of Tony Soprano. If it's just, say, 'nightfall' and my intention, such as it is, is to then wander the downtown hoping to run into something interesting, then that act/activity is just too slack, inattentive, and unintentional to be something I'm 'biding my time' for.

    You aren't comfortable with my saying, "I'm watching TV, biding my time until night fall hopingI'll see some nice stars if they're not obscured by clouds."

    However, if I said, "I'm just watching TV until 10 pm, when the eclipse of the moon begins and I can see its progress and take some great photos," you're OK with that. I'm in partial agreement, but also I'm sure you see there are gray areas. How about, if the bolded phrase is deleted?
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    For me, biding one's time is best used when something COULD be done sooner but the person defers action, waiting patiently/quietly for a more opportune moment.

    So I don't think simply waiting for the new series to become available is a very suitable example, but with small changes it could become so.
    Example:
    John was adamant that Sue Ellen shot J.R. but Mary bided her time and waited for the new season instead of idly speculating about it.
     
    [Linkway,] I wonder if this intuition is compatible with vel's. In your last example, the person is awaiting a new season, not speculating, and plans (I think) to keep an eye out for more information and clues as to who killed JR. The action is rather vague and diffuse, sort of the opposite end of the spectrum from my Soprano example, end of post #13. (Relevant examples are at the end of post #15, also.)
     
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    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    >>However, if I said, "I'm just watching TV until 10 pm, when the eclipse of the moon begins and I can see its progress and take some great photos," you're OK with that. I'm in partial agreement, but also I'm sure you see there are gray areas. How about, if the bolded phrase is deleted?

    So, "biding my time until I can seize the opportunity, rush out and take some great photos"? Hmm, that wouldn't bother me unduly, though I don't think it's such a good example since you say you already know when this opportunity is scheduled to happen.
     

    Li'l Bull

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    Wow!

    I didn't expect the phrase to raise so much interest and so many conflicting views.

    After carefully reading your posts (which I must admit weren't so easy to understand - remember I'm not a native speaker of English ;)), one of the conclusions you seem to have reached has to do with the fact that the thing you are waiting for should not be scheduled, that is to say, you are patiently waiting for a future opportunity which you do not know when is going to happen.

    In my sentence "Right now I'm just watching a few films, biding my time for the new season of my favourite series.", does it make a difference whether I know when the new season premieres?

    Would I sound more natural if I forgot about "biding my time" altogether and rephrased my sentence like this?:

    "Right now I'm just watching a few films, killing time until the new season of my favourite series premieres."
     
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    Hi, Lil.

    Your summary,


    After carefully reading your posts (which I must admit weren't so easy to understand - remember I'm not a native speaker of English ;)), one of the conclusions you seem to have reached has to do with the fact that the thing you are waiting for should not be scheduled, that is to say, you are patiently waiting for a future opportunity which you do not know when is going to happen.


    reflects the views of linkway, which are entirely plausible. Mine are slightly different.

    I find this sentence (suggested in post #19) quite plausible, routine and standard,

    I'm biding my time, before the noon appearance of the Pope, hoping to get a good picture of him on the balcony.

    --
    I agree there should be some uncertainty, but, depending on the issue, scheduling does not necessarily remove uncertainty *in a certain respect*, as in my above example. In other words, the *time* of the Pope's appearance is known; whether the occasion will allow a good photograph, is not. Hence the appropriateness of 'bide my time,' here. I say this will all due respect for the plausible and well-argued post of Linkway.
     
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    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    Bennymix, I think we are largely in agreement. In your example, the person could spend their fretting about when they might get chance to take the pope's photo or hunting around different corners in some futile way but no, they bided their time and waited patiently for the right/best moment.

    Hunters could shoot as soon as they see their prey, but often bide their time waiting for the best moment.

    I don't think unpredictability is essential. But I think there has to be an element of choosing to delay doing something until the best moment. Or at the very least opting to wait calmly/patiently for that time even if the event itself is outside their control.

    The burglar bided his time hiding in the bushes until the homeowner left.

    I think we all agree it would make no sense to say:
    The burglar bided his time as he ran panic-stricken down the street being chased by four armed cops!!!
     
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