"Time will tell."

Some people tend to use this phrase at the end of their long “refutative” comments. It seems to be their favorite phrase. I notice that they are sometimes “arrogantly” confident about what they themselves have contended.
If “Only time will tell whether A or B is right” is the meaning of “Time will tell”, why are they so confident? I don’t think that they are just feeling that the future is not theirs to see.

I would like to know with how much confidence you use this phrase “Time will tell”.

“…Some people…(…)…I notice that they are sometimes “arrogantly” confident about what they themselves have contended…”

Aw c’mon, don’t be so shy!

If you’re going to troll me, you might as well have the guts to be open about it, no? :wink:

Anyway, I’m afraid I don’t have time for your humorous repartee today. I’ve got to get some stuff done, so that Friday afternoon will be free.

(I’m having a little party with some old friends! :-D)

I think that you are not the only person who uses this interesting phrase at the end of “refutative” comments. It may be a common cliché in English.
I am interested in the style of writing of this sort.

Thank you for your quick response. I am looking forward to your witty comment.

Hi Yutaka, I don’t think of it as necessarily being related to overconfidence or arrogance. To express confidence in the situation you described, I would say something like, “You’ll see.”

You can also say “Only time will tell,” which I think takes away the confidence factor even more because it emphasises that the speakers cannot say what the outcome will be, only time can.


Thank you for your explanation.

On the surface it means that events will unfold as they will, regardless of what you or I think. That is rather the opposite of arrogant. However, it may be used with a sense of false humility – to mean that events will happen as they will regardless of what you think (whereas I have it right).


I suppose almost any kind of humility could be “false humility”. I could say: “I’m terribly sorry about that - I really screwed up, etc” and mean it in a sarcastic kind of way. (Or not.)

Still, if I say “time’ll tell” in answer to Yutaka’s questions (as I have done several times on other threads) it seems pretty fantastic to me to read “arrogance” or “confidence” into that.

But whatever…

^^I think this is the best reply. I have never associated arrogance with the phrase “only time will tell” or similar. It is not something I encounter often, but when I hear it, it is usually at the end of a conversation where the speaker is trying to be LESS argumentative, or is less confident.

1 Like