Grammar-QuizzesVerb PhrasesVerbsPresent › Time-Relative Events

Time-Relative Events

Relate the timing of two activities

TV Reporterteapot

 

 
EARLIER OR LATER

A preposition such as before, after, as soon as, until, before, or by may be added to a clause to express that a second activity occurs earlier or later than the activity in the main clause. If the verb in the main clause is present, the verb in clause following the preposition is also present tense.

ACTIVITY LATER ACTIVITY
CLAUSE (PRESENT ) CONNECTIVE PREP + CLAUSE

I usually make a pot of tea

before we watch TV.   

(earlier than the TV start time)

I usually make a pot of tea

by the time that the show starts.

(possibly before but no later than when he arrives)

ACTIVITY EARLIER ACTIVITY

I usually make a pot of tea

after we watch TV.  

(later than the TV start time)

I usually pour a cup of tea

as soon as we begin watching TV.   

(at the TV starting time)

I don't make tea   (negative)

until we watch TV.   

(the time we begin watching)

SAME TIME

Similarly, a preposition such as when, while, as or as long as may be added to a clause to express that a second activity occurs at the same time as the activity in the main clause. If the verb in the main clause is present, the verb in clause following the preposition is also present tense. 

ACTIVITY SAME-TIME ACTIVITY
CLAUSE (PRESENT) CONNECTIVE PREP + CLAUSE

I am usually drinking a cup of tea

(progressive–focus is given to the ongoing timing of the activity)

while we are watching TV.

(during TV time)

I usually drink a cup of tea

(focus is given to the activity rather than its ongoing timing)

when we watch TV.

 

   

We relax

as long as we are watching TV.

(throughout the TV time)

I do the laundry

as they watch football.

(during TV time)

I read a book

during the time that you watch TV.

 

focus (N) – something we pay attention to, concentrate on

the moment (NP) – as soon as, when; We have to leave the moment he gets here.

as long as (PP [P]) — may also express a meaning of "if" or "provided that";  As long as he gets here by noon, I'll be here to let him in.

(Azar 17-2) (Huddleston 696)  (Swan 29.1-1)

Also see After/ Before/ WhenGrammar Notes for terms | By the time.

 

 

 

 

Future Time-Related Events

Expressing future intent or scheduled events

 

 

Future: relating scheduled activities

PREP + ASYNCHRONOUS TIME CLAUSE  (different time)

A preposition such as before, after, as soon as, until, before, or by may be added to express that a second activity occurs earlier or later than the activity in the main clause. If the verb in the main clause is future, the verb in clause following the preposition is present tense.

ACTIVITY LATER ACTIVITY
CLAUSE (FUTURE TENSE) PREP + CLAUSE (PRESENT)

I will make tea

before we watch TV.   

(earlier than the TV start time)

I will have made tea

by the time that he arrives.

(possibly before but no later than when he arrives)

ACTIVITY EARLIER ACTIVITY

I will make tea

after we watch TV.  

(later than the TV start time)

I will make tea

as soon as we watch TV.   

(at the TV starting time)

I won't make tea   (negative)

until we watch TV.   

(at the TV starting time)

PREP + SYNCHRONOUS TIME CLAUSE  (same time)

Similarly, a preposition such as when, while, as or as long as may be added to express that a second activity occurs at the same time as the activity in the main clause. If the verb in the main clause is future, the verb in clause following the preposition is present tense. 

ACTIVITY SAME-TIME ACTIVITY
CLAUSE (FUTURE TENSE) PREP + CLAUSE (PRESENT)

I will be making tea

(progressive–focus is given to the ongoing timing of the activity)

while we are watching TV.

(during TV time)

I will make tea

(no particular focus is given to the ongoing timing of the activity)

when we watch TV.

(at TV time)

   

We will be drinking tea

as long as you are watching TV.

(throughout the TV time)

I will be making tea

as you watch TV.

(during TV time)

I will be making tea

during the time that you watch TV.

 

Also see Past Time-Related Events.

 

 

 

 

 

After vs. Afterwards

Express relative timing vs. a time

 

 

After vs. Afterwards

AFTER

After relates a clause with an activity that finishes before the activity in the main clause occurs. (when, the moment, as soon as – immediately after) "later than ____". 

ACTIVITY EARLIER ACTIVITY

I will teach

after I get my degree.

 

when I get my degree.

 

the moment I get my degree.

 

as soon as I get my degree.

 

 

 

 
AFTERWARD

Afterward relates an activity that occurs at a time when the activity in the main clause finishes.  "at this later time" (Afterwards is used in US English but more commonly in British English.)

ACTIVITY LATER ACTIVITY

I'll get my degree.  

*After, I'll teach at a university.  (not used)

 

Afterwards, I'll teach at a university. 

 

Shortly after, I'll teach at a university.

 

Not long after, I'll teach at a university.

 

After that, I'll teach at a university.

I will get my degree⇒

before I teach at a university.  (unlikely!) 

*Instead of after use afterward or after that.

after – (adverbial preposition) requires a complement such as They called after 3 p.m. (NP), They called after arriving. (gerund), They called after they left school. (clause).

afterward – (adverbial preposition) includes its complement "ward" which can express a meaning of "the time", "the place", "the direction". They called afterward.  "after the time".  Similarly: They moved forward.   "ahead to the place".  See Adverbs: Object in the Word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punctuation

Comma Use

 

 

 

Initial vs. Final Clause Position

INITIAL POSITION

commaA time-relative preposition and its clause can be moved to the beginning of the sentence with a comma placed after it (separating the clauses.)

USE A COMMA

As soon as you get here, we'll leave.  

Before I drink coffee, my head aches.

After I drink coffee, my headache stops.

When you give me the keys, I'll start driving.

MID POSITION

no commaWhen a time-relative preposition is placed between the two clauses, no comma is used.

USE NO COMMA

We'll leave as soon as you get here.

My head hurts before I drink coffee.

My headache stops after I drink coffee.

I'll start driving when you give me the keys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors & Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*After I will make a telephone call, we can leave.

*We went to dinner, and after, went dancing.

~We have to leave at the moment he gets here.  (not incorrect, but not used) 

SOLUTION

After I make a telephone call, we can leave.  (omit will)

We went to dinner, and then, went dancing. 
We went to dinner, and after that, went dancing.  (After is seldom used alone. Use and then instead.)

We have to leave the moment he gets here.  as soon as, when (The preposition at is usually omitted.)   

 

 

Resources

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Travel

Tahiti

 

Present or future modal?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

1.
Next week, we are going on vacation.
Next week, we are going on vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Time-relative Events

Sister talking to brother

 

Read the Context

Mara:   Will you remember to email me as soon as you (get)____  there?

Jack:   I won't be able to email you until I (have)____ a WiFi connection.

Mara:  OK then. When it (be)____ 11:30, I'll check to see if the flight has landed.

Jack:  Would you also phone Aunt Carol after the plane (land)____?"

Mara:   Yes, she (be)____ waiting in the cell phone lot nearby until she hears from me.

Jack:  Great!  I'll call you as soon as I (get)____ to her home.

 

 

Present, present progressive or future modal?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

9.

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WiFi- data exchange over a wireless Internet network