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

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Submitted by Nevı on Fri, 02/04/2021 - 12:36

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Hi team, I want to ask question about one thing. When I write for example; 1)While I was watching TV, somebody knocked the door. 2)While watching TV, somebody knocked the door. Are there any meaning diffrences between these 2 sentences? or they are the same meaning. I mean can we use just while+v-ing without meaning difference. Thank you. Best wishes.

Hello Nevi,

People would understand 2, but it's not correct. Normally when the subject and auxiliary verb are removed ('I was' in this example) from the dependent time-clause, the subject of both verbs in the sentence is the same. That is not the case in this sentence because 'I' is the subject of 'was watching' and 'somebody' (a different person) is the subject of 'knocked'.

You could say 'I ate a sandwich while watching TV' or 'I ate a sandwich while I was watching TV' and both of these are correct since the same person is the subject of both verbs.

But that's not the case with the sentences you've asked about.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rikimaru on Fri, 01/01/2021 - 14:14

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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,

Kirk

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timmy Ferrer on Tue, 07/04/2020 - 02:33

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Hello! 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!

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 07/04/2020 - 07:03

In reply to by Timmy Ferrer

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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.

 

Peter

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Azadeh on Wed, 04/03/2020 - 02:38

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

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 04/03/2020 - 07:48

In reply to by Azadeh

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Hi Azadeh,

Adverbs are individual words. Adverbial is a broader term and includes individual words and also phrases.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sam61 on Tue, 23/04/2019 - 02:27

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Hi, It used to be the case that when/if/whenever someone mentioned Arizona, I thought about her. It used to be the case that when/if/whenever someone mentioned Arizona, I would think about her. It used to be the case that when/if/whenever someone mentioned Arizona, I used to think about her. Do the 3 sentences mean the same thing? Also, are when/if/whenever interchangeable in those sentences? Thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 23/04/2019 - 06:46

In reply to by sam61

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Hello sam61, There is no difference in meaning here between the three verb forms (thought, would think and used to think). In this context, all of them describe a regular (not unique) action. ~ 'Whenever' usually means 'every time' rather than describing a particular time, while 'when' has a broader range of meanings. In this context, however, they are interchangeable. 'If' is a little different. It carries a sense of uncertainty. 'When' ('whenever') tells us that the action will happen even if the time is uncertain. 'If' tells us that the action may not happen. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anda B on Mon, 20/02/2017 - 10:14

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Hello! I have a question about "during" and when we have to use the article "the". If I'm referring to any night and not a specific one, which is correct, "during the night" or "during night"? Here's an example: "If you take a walk during (the) night, be very careful." Thank you!

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 20/02/2017 - 12:21

In reply to by Anda B

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Hello Anda B,

'during the night' is correct and 'during night' is not – there is no good reason as far as I know, it's just that people say the first one but not the second.

Actually, many people would probably say 'at night' instead of 'during the night' because 'during the night' could imply the whole period of the night, which doesn't seem to be what you mean here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Daniel H on Fri, 23/12/2016 - 06:38

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Good night! Could you tell me please, which one of these are the correct one? Is the idea clear? 1. Do you ever think about stop complaining about everything? 2. Have you ever thought of stopping complaining about everything?

Hello Daniel H,

The first sentence is incorrect. The second is correct but I suspect you mean 'consider', which is more usually expressed with 'think about':

Have you ever thought about stopping complaining about everything?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dragos Chiva on Tue, 05/01/2016 - 15:34

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Good afternoon, Will you please explain why the "during the summer" adverbial was enclosed in the "when" category and not in the "how long" one at the answers of the activity? Aren't "during the summer" and "from June to August" forms equivalent?

Hello Dragos,

Although it indicates a period of time that begins at one point and ends at another, 'during' is typically used to refer to that whole period of time, not to indicate duration. It's a subtle difference. You might want to look up 'during' in the dictionary search box on the right side of this page – the example sentences there could be helpful in seeing exactly how it works.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shimaa Yasser on Wed, 09/09/2015 - 17:40

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Hello .. i can't understand the relation between the word " today " and the phrase "the day before yesterday" ?? how could us talk about this day and then we say ( before yesterday ) ? thanks

Hello Shimaa Yasser,

If today is Wednesday, yesterday is Tuesday and the day before yesterday is Monday. I hope this clears it up for you!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hrnmno on Sat, 25/04/2015 - 00:56

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Dear Sir, Which sentence is appropriately correct? The game started in Newyork at 3.00pm on Sunday 5th of July 1998. The game started in Newyork on Sunday at 3.00pm 5th of July 1998. The game started in Newyork in 1998 5th of July on Sunday at 3.00pm.

Hello hrnmno,

The first of these is the most natural. We generally start with the most specific reference (clock time) and then move to progressively more general (day, month and year). This can change if we wish to emphasise a certain point for some reason, but it would be unusual.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shadyar on Mon, 08/12/2014 - 06:24

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Hello Kirk, Thank you for your reply. I read the definition for four preposition (in , within, by, and until) in your dictionary. It didn't make me clear. My question, as I mentioned before, is clear .Can we use these four preposition interchangeably? If the answer is no, what is the difference in the meaning? Look at the examples bellow; they are the exact examples of your dictionary. Can you finish the job in two weeks? If we replace "in" with "within" or "until" and say "Can you finish the job within two weeks?" or "Can you finish the job until two weeks?" Do these three sentences have the same meaning? Your dictionary says the usage for "in"," MORE THAN- needing or using no more time than a particular amount of time:" and for "within" it says " Inside or not further than an area or period of time , and for until says " up to (the time that)". So the definition seems close to each other. Now please make the point clear ,Are there any differences in usage among these prepositions?

Submitted by shadyar on Wed, 03/12/2014 - 05:30

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Hello Kirk, Thank you for reply on 28 Nov.I read your page talking about the future. I didn't find my answere. This question came to my mind based on this point about "will"."when we decide to do something at the time of speaking we use will.Therefore, fore example,in the sentence "I am going on holiday next Saturday."we can not use will.(Raymond Murphy,1995).By the same token I thought there maybe the sentence " Thomas will graduate from collage next month.'wrong grammatically.So what do you think about the correctness of the sentence?By the way my question concerning "in , within, by , and until' left unanswered. Do the four sentences have the same meaning? Best Wishes,

Hi shadyar,

'Thomas will graduate from college next month' is a grammatically correct sentence. 'will' has many uses, and one of them is the one you mention - to talk about a future action that we've just decided on in the moment of speaking. The other most common uses of 'will' are explained on our will or would page. One of them, to make a prediction about the future or express a simple fact, seems to be the way it is used in the sentence about Thomas.

I believe I responded to your comment about the different prepositions by suggesting that you try to explain what you think the differences in meaning are. I'd suggest you use our dictionary to look up each one and then consider your sentences in the light of the definitions and examples. If you have Murphy's book, it might be a useful resource for this task as well. Once you've done this, write out what you think the differences in meaning are and we'll be happy to confirm or correct them for you.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shadyar on Thu, 27/11/2014 - 09:28

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Hello kirk, I just guess there maybe differences among them.I have seen in some tests that we can't use them (in, by,within,until) interchangeably.Do you think these three sentences have the same meaning? Thank You

Submitted by shadyar on Tue, 25/11/2014 - 06:41

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Hello, concerning Flautinés' question, can we say" Thomas will graduate from collage next month. Or Thomas is going to graduate from collage next month. Thank You.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 28/11/2014 - 13:28

In reply to by shadyar

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Hi shadyar,

Have you seen our talking about the future page? The different ways of speaking about the future are explained there.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shadyar on Tue, 25/11/2014 - 06:28

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Hello, would you please clarify the use of "in ", "by","within",and "until"in the following sentence. The project may finish in two years time. The project may finish by two years . The project may finish within two years. The project may finish until two years . Thank you

Hi shadyar,

Could you please explain to use how you understand the differences between these sentences? Then we can confirm or correct you as needed.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Helen the Good on Thu, 31/10/2013 - 03:44

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I like these exercises! But, I think sometime it is not enough! Anyway, I am Helen, from Beijing. And I want to send my appreciation to the UK program!

Submitted by Flautinés on Thu, 20/06/2013 - 10:07

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Hi, I´m glad to be subscribed to this site. I´ve started studying grammar not long time ago and I was trying to do an exercise in a different site and there´s something that I don´t get completely.
This is what I tried to do:

"Thomas (graduate)_________from collage next month. He is trying to study for finall exams, but he is thinking a lot about his vacation plans"


And I completed the space by writing "is graduating" but when I checked the answer they say the correct answer is "graduates" so finally I don´t understand.
Is this due to the "adverbs"?...I´m lost.

Hi Flautinés and welcome to LearnEnglish,

I wouldn't like to comment on the activity you were doing but I can say that, in the example you provide, both the present simple ('graduates') and the present continuous ('is graduating') are perfectly OK.  In modern English we can often use both of these tenses for fixed or arranged future events:

He's graduating next month

or

He graduates next month

 

The train is leaving at five o'clock tonight

or

The train leaves at five o'clock tonight

 

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by jamac on Sat, 23/02/2013 - 05:56

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  1. hello to all of you iam  new  member for almost one week i have been having problem with writing comment from my mobile internet know iam writing my comment from acybercafe pc  thanks to the team of this site really it is very great and usefull site so iam looking forward  to improve my English with this site

Submitted by Ola-abed on Fri, 22/02/2013 - 21:41

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Hi, I've sent message but I don't receive any answer,please tell me if i have  any  problem 

 

Submitted by Ola-abed on Mon, 18/02/2013 - 20:02

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Hi Adam

I have a simple question,  how do we use simple past with adverb of frequency as(sometime) , I've learned in our school that we use present simple with this  adverb

Best wishes

Ola

Hello Ola!

 

First off, we are a small team here, and we get a lot of questions every day - we can't guarantee a quick reply, although we do try! In answer to your question, you use adverbs of frequency with the past tense to talk about your habits in the past. For example:

I usually went to school by bus, but sometimes I walked. 

Hope that helps!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team