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The word "second" is an ordinal number, but it's also a unit of time.

  • There are 60 seconds in a minute.
  • It takes just a couple seconds for a web page to fully load on a computer.
  • Television commercials are normally fifteen or thirty seconds in length.
  • You have only seconds to react when driving a car.

As an ordinal number, use second when something else is first.

  • Gary and Linda are expecting their second child.
  • This is the second time this week we didn't get our mail.
  • It's a good idea to have a second key in case your first key gets lost.
  • A cat fell from a second-story window and survived the fall.
  • Jill's apartment is on the second floor. (In the U.S., The second floor is above the ground-level floor, which is the first floor.)
  • Cheryl is unhappy with coming in second when she competes in a race. She always wants to come in first.
  • The cake that Yasmin entered in the bake off came in second. She received a second-place ribbon.

When asking for a person's time, or when asking someone to wait, you can use the word "second."

  • Can I talk to you for a second?
  • This will just take a few seconds.
  • I can help you, but just give me a second.
  • Hey, wait a second.
  • Just a second.

The word "second" is used when asking for additional food

  • When Don finished all of his dinner, he got a second helping of food.
  • He got a second helping.
  • He got seconds. (seconds = a second amount of food)
  • Would you like seconds? (Do you want an additional amount of food?)

The word "second" is used when there is a nominating process at a meeting. When a person "seconds" something, he or she is in vocal support of it.

  • The nomination of a new committee chairperson was seconded by one of the members.
  • A motion introduced at the meeting was seconded and then finally approved by everyone.
  • I second the motion.

If something is second, it may have been used by someone else first, or if something is second, it comes after something original:

  • We bought a second-hand couch.
  • Grizella got a good deal on a wooden desk that was second hand. (second hand = used; not new)
  • A second-hand account of the story did not include all of the details found in the original story.
  • After running almost five miles in the marathon, Roger felt like he got a second wind and easily completed the race. (second wind = a feeling of additional strength or power)

Learn more vocabulary here.


May 9, 2018







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