Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"


Do you hear people trying to set time limits on things in English?

Is there ever really a good way to do this?

Do you struggle with finding the right words to set limits in conversation?

We’re going to look at how to set limits using the right words, and why that matters so much when you connect with people in English.

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Learning To Set Limits

Setting limits can be a somewhat tricky thing.

You want to use the right words and tone so as not to offend anyone.

You want to get your point across as to what the limit is, but you also don’t want to come off as rude.

You may hear people use the word “tops” to talk about the limit of something.

This is trying to give that top limit of how long or how much or whatever the situation may be.

You might say something like “It will be like 10-15 minutes, tops.”

Or you might also hear “I would pay maybe $25 tops.”

This is to express that this is the top of the range, and therefore your absolute limit in this situation.

Finding The Right Way To Push Back

When you think about it, setting limits is a way of looking out for yourself.

You don’t want to commit too much time, spend too much money, or whatever the other variable may be.

This is your way of looking out for yourself and your own well being.

This is a great aspect of learning the language, but you want the right way to say this.

You don’t want to come off as too aggressive because this will irritate people.

You want to use the right word in that situation, and then be firm but considerate as to how you set this limit for yourself.

Used properly, it can be a very powerful part of conversation.

Different Ways To Speak To This

There are different ways to talk about whatever that limit is.

You want to be aware of each of these so that you can use them at the appropriate time.

Though you won’t likely need to use them all at once, you do want to be aware of the different words and phrases to speak to setting your limit.

  • Time: You are essentially setting a time limit for whatever the situation may be. You don’t want to spend anymore time than this, and so you are being up front about this time requirement. If said the right way, it helps to protect your time but is also honest about this limit with others. “This meeting will take no more than a half hour, tops.”
  • Amount: This may be how much money you are willing to spend, it may be about space constraints, or something else related to a tangible and specific amount. This helps you to express yourself and let somebody else know exactly what that limit is. It can help with connection and reassure someone about timing. You are being very clear and transparent about things, and people tend to appreciate that. “I can bring four people in my car, tops.” Another example might be “I want to spend $30 on parking, tops.”
  • At most: This is another way of setting that maximum limit. You are telling people that you aren’t willing to go above this number, and you very likely have your reasons for it. “There will be 40 people at the party, at most, so we can plan to order food to accommodate that.”
  • Maximum/Max: This is a very clear limit because you are putting it into words. You do not want to go above this and so you are practically spelling it out to say that this is it. This is as far as you will take it, and there is no wiggle room. Again you can still say this nicely and get your point across. “I have ten minutes to talk, max.”
  • At/The Latest: It’s setting a limit or like a curfew but in a nice mature way. You are telling people that this is as late as it will go so that they can plan around it. This helps for planning purposes, but also with letting people know what to expect. “The party will go until 11:00 at the latest. Can you pick me up then?”

These words and phrases will help you connect with others.

Knowing what the right words and phrases are can help you to set expectations in the right way.


Discussing limits are very important and these words and phrases allow you to do so.

They all sound polite and can help you talk about plans and numbers in a really effective way.

You have to know how to set limits for your own good, and these will help you to do so.

This is an important part of communication, and this can also help you in making important connections.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.


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