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Adverbials of time

Level: beginner

We use adverbials of time to describe:

  • when something happens:

I saw Mary yesterday.
She was born in 1978.
I will see you later.
There was a storm during the night.

We waited all day.
They have lived here since 2004.
We will be on holiday from 1 July until 3 August.

They usually watched television in the evening.
We sometimes went to work by car.

Adverbials of time




Hi I have a question about some time expressions or adverbials as you might call them. So for instance, I understand that some English time expressions including "yesterday, one year ago, last week/month/year/night, when I was a child, when I lived in Japan" are also known as time expressions that represent specific points in time.

Firstly, am I right to say that these expressions actually represent durations of time (for example, "yesterday" can refer to any duration of time, however short or long, within the day before today; or for example last night can refer to any duration of time within the night before, i.e. during the previous night) rather than points in time?

Secondly, to quote an example, when I say something like "I watched TV last night", does "last night' here represent a specific point in time, or does it represent a specific duration of time, or both? since I can't possible finish watching TV within an instance of time (i.e. point in time) but rather would need a specific duration of time over which my action of watching would take place, it seems to me that "last night" in this example would represent a past duration of time; yet I cant help but feel that "last night" represents a point in time in the past. So which is it point in time, or duration of time, or both?

Would greatly appreciate you advice, thanks!

Hello Rikimaru,

These time expressions can refer to a specific point in time, or, probably more commonly, a duration in time. It's the context, other more specific expressions, or our knowledge about the world that help us determine whether they refer to a point in time or a duration.

Your analysis of 'I watched TV last night' is a good example of our knowledge about TV that makes it clear that it refers to duration rather than a point in time. It could be that you watched it for one second -- a point in time rather than a duration -- but normally we'd specify this if it was the case or was important in some way.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,

Firstly - ok, so specific time expressions such as "yesterday, one year ago, last week/month/year/night, when I was a child, when I lived in Japan" can refer to either a point in time (i.e. an instance or second) or a longer duration of time, and that whether we mean it as a point in time or as a duration of time really depends on other factors such as context/general knowledge etc. So using the same example "I watch TV last night", this would be default be taken to mean that I watched TV for a certain duration that began and ended last night, but certainly it could also mean that I watched TV for a brief instance (i.e. a second); however if it were the latter meaning, it would probably be best for me to add on other details just to make it clear. Am I right so far?

Secondly, I have another query on the use of verbs. For example if I say something (an action or event etc) happened or will happen, by default, the verb used would encompass both the start and end of the action right? So for instance if I say "I watched TV last night, or will watch TV tomorrow", or "I washed the car last night, or will wash the car next week", either way, what it means is that the action of watching/washing started and ended in the past (if past tense) or will start and end (in the future if using future tense), correct? that is the verb used to describe the action would automatically encompass both the start and finish of the action?

Hello Rikimaru,

Yes, you are right about both points. You are very good at explaining things -- nice work!

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

It's an educative tip.


May I know which is correct:

"I don't feel well this morning."
"I've not been well since this morning."
"I've not been feeling well since this morning."
"I've not felt well since this morning."
"I'm not feeling well this morning."
"I didn't feel well this morning."

It's a little confusing. Which is both grammatically correct and naturally spoken?

Thank you!

Hello Timmy Ferrer,

All of the sentences are grammatically correct. Some of them are simply alternatives in this context, but there are differences between some.


I don't feel well this morning.

The speaker still doesn't feel well and it is still morning.

I'm not feeling well this morning.

This has a similar meaning to the first sentence. It is a more colloquial/informal way to phrase it, but it is quite common in some dialects.


I've not been well since this morning.

I've not been feeling well since this morning.

I've not felt well since this morning.

All of these have essentially the same meaning. The speaker still does not feel well and it is no longer morning.

I didn't feel well this morning.

The speaker now feels well but did not feel well earlier. It is no longer morning.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your this! However, if we're taking language proficiency tests such as TOEIC, IELTS, TOEFL, and the like, which is usually considered or used?

My colleagues and I were talking about this since a question was posted by a Japanese teacher of English. They have this EIKEN, similar to the above-mentioned tests, which they are also preparing their students for.

Looking forward to your guidance.

Thank you very much!!

Hello again.

Where there are alternatives with similar meanings, it's really a question of style. Certain forms might be more appropriate in a less formal context - the two continuous forms here, but none of them examples you provided are slang or exclusively used in speech.

You would not be penalised for using any of the forms in a written or even formal context, particularly given that in a piece of writing or speech the chosen form is the only one present, and there are not three alternatives to provide a contrast. Using contractions in a formal piece of writing would be a worse slip in terms of style than choosing any of these examples, for example.



The LearnEnglish Team

May I know what's different beetween Adverbials and Adverbs, for example "Always" is an adverb or adverbial?

Thank you,