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Adverbs for Time (temporal modifiers)

Express the timing of an action

clock
 

 

Timing Concepts

TIME FRAME — WHEN?
EARLIER CURRENT LATER 

yesterday

now

tomorrow

last Sunday

today

next Sunday

that Sunday

tonight

a week from now

just / recently

presently

later

TIME  — WHEN SPECIFICALLY ?
SPECIFIC LESS-SPECIFIC RELATIVE TIMING

at noon today

today

as soon as I know

on May 1 at 1 PM

tonight

when we meet

at sunset tonight

this week

after that

at midnight

this month

before arriving

FREQUENCY — HOW OFTEN?
REPEATED PHRASE REPEATED INTERVALS

again and again

repeatedly

always

over and over

constantly

sometimes

on and on

perpetually

rarely

several times

eternally

never / ever

DURATION  — HOW LONG?
QUANTITY OF TIME START TIME PERIOD

just for today  (only)

since yesterday

during the week

for a moment

since last week

from1 to 2 PM

for 24 hours

since you called

while it's warm

for the year

since you called

all day

PROGRESS OF COMPLETION — DONE?
EARLIER THAN NOW LATER THAN NOW

already

yet  

no longer

still (longer than expected)

 

 

See Already v. Yet.

 
DEIXIS —  PERSPECTIVE?
NEAR DISTANT

this year 

that year

in these days

in those days

now

then

tomorrow

the next day

 

Practice pages:  Present adverbs,  Past adverbs, Future adverbs,  Present perfect adverbs 

Related: Tense, Mood, Aspect | Prepositions for Time | Deixis

Also see Huddleston 6 §7 — temporal location, duration, aspectuality, frequency, serial order (again, first, last, next)

 

 

 

 

Time Expressions

Is it an adverb or some other word form?(differentiation of terms)

 

 

 

 

Present Adverbs (time expressions)

Specify the timing of an action or activity

walking
 

 

Present Time Expressions — definite vs. indefinite timing

DEFINITE TIMING  "HAPPENING AROUND NOW"

Adverbial expressions with definite timing are used when actions can be marked on a timeline (clock/calendar); they have endpoints/goals. Compare: I am walking to class today. (definite timing, it ends when I arrive at class) to I walk to class. (indefinite timing, "timeless", no endpoint, a routine).

WITH PROGRESSIVE VERBS WITH PROGRESSIVE VERBS

I am walking to class now

*I walk to class now.

I am walking to class today

*I walk to class today.¹

NOW THIS ...

now (just now, right now)

currently (presently)

today / tonight (word origin – this day, this night) 

 

at the moment  (for now, for the time being, for now, at present)

this month  (time not passed: morning, evening, week, semester, this spring, year, decade, century)

as we speak (expression: now)

these moments  (time not passed: weeks, months, semesters, years)

still (with a negative verb: no longer)

Used with progressive.

this Tuesday (June 20, June 20, 2020) (in the current week)

 

 

INDEFINITE TIMING "HAPPENING SOMETIME"

Adverbial expressions with indefinite timing are used when activities or states happen "sometime", not related to a timeline. The precise time is not important. The focus is on the activity or state.  These adverbs express duration (a period of time) or repetition (the interval of occurrence).

BOTH PROGRESSIVE & NON BOTH PROGRESSIVE & NON

I am walking to class temporarily.

I walk to class during the week.

I am walking to class often.

I walk to class often.

DURATION  REPETITION

temporarily(continuously, briefly, momentarily) [imperfective, ongoing] ⇒ Mostly progressive.

repeatedly(constantly, continuously, again and again, perpetually, eternally)⇒ Switch to "keep" with progressive.³

for a moment (ten minutes, a week, a month, for a while², a little while, a day,  forever)  ⇒ Often present perfect.

always (routinely, customarily, usually, in general, normally, often, sometimes, hardly ever, never)

during the week (month, year, etc.) ⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

at night (noon, midnight, sunset)

in spring (winter, summer, June, July)

from Monday to Tuesday(1 PM to 2 PM, morning to night)

⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

on Mondays (Tuesday, Sundays, etc.)

most days (nights, weekends, etc.)

while it is warm(a relative time: when, if, whenever, before, after)  before lunch  (after)

every / each / every other day  (hour, day, night, week, month, year, May, spring)

 

¹ adverbs like today or this month include time that is past, present and future. With the present tense, we understand the time to be present, current, now. "I walk to class today," could also be understood as a scheduled activity. See Scheduled Events—Routine vs. Near Future.

² for a while (PP) – can be understood in two ways: (1) having some amount of duration, or (2) being very temporary

³ keep + verb+ing – Repetition can be expressed by using the "keep" (I keep walking.  He kept smiling.)  The progressive with "repeatedly" (*I am walking to class repeatedly. )sounds awkward.

Specific adverbial pages: Frequency Adverbs| Preps for Time—In v. On v. At | During v. In | For-Since

Related tense pages:   Past vs. Progressive | Present vs. Present Perfect Progressive | Future vs. Future Progressive (will)

 

 

 

 

Past Adverbs (time expressions)

Specify the timing of an action or activity

walking
 

 

Past Time Expressions — definite vs. indefinite timing

DEFINITE TIMING

Adverbial expressions with definite timing are used when actions can be marked on a timeline (clock/calendar); they have endpoints/goals. Compare: She was driving to work yesterday. (definite timing, it ended when she arrived at work) to She drove to work. (indefinite timing, "timeless", no specified endpoint, a routine).

BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

She was driving to work at noon

She drove to work at noon

She was driving to work yesterday

She drove to work yesterday

AT, IN, ON THAT / LAST…

at 6:00 AM(an earlier time—at noon yesterday, at midnight last week)

a day ago (second, minute, hour, week, month, year)  

on January 10 (an earlier date—last Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, January 31, May 1, 2020)

last night (week, month, winter, year) 

yesterday

in January (an earlier month, year, century— the 1990s, the 19th century)

that¹ Monday (week, month, year)  

those weeks (days, months, years)

as we spoke (a relative point in time: when they arrived, as soon as she knew)

then

still (with a negative verb: no longer)

⇒ Used with progressive.

 

INDEFINITE TIMING

Adverbial expressions with indefinite timing are used when activities or states happen "sometime", not related to a timeline. The precise time is not important. The focus is on the activity or state. These adverbs express duration (a period of time) or repetition (the interval of occurrence).                                                                

BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

She was driving to work constantly.

She drove to work during the week.

She was driving to work often.

She drove to work often.

DURATION REPETITION

temporarily(continuously, briefly, momentarily) [imperfective, ongoing] ⇒ Mostly progressive.

repeatedly(constantly, continuously, again and again, perpetually, eternally)⇒ Switch to "keep" with progressive.³

for a moment (ten minutes, a week, a month, for a while², a little while, a day,  forever)  ⇒ Often present perfect.

always (routinely, customarily, usually, in general, normally, often, sometimes, hardly ever, never)

during the week (month, year, etc.) ⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

at night (noon, midnight, sunset)

in spring (winter, summer, June, July)

from Monday to Tuesday(1 PM to 2 PM, morning to night)

on Mondays (Tuesday, Sundays, etc.)

most days (nights, weekends, etc.)

while it was warm(a relative period of time: when, if, whenever, before, after)  before sunrise  (after)

every / each / every other  (hour, day, night, week, month, year, May, spring)

 

*incorrect / ~awkward or borderline usage

¹ adverbs like today or this month include time that is past, present and future. With the present tense, we understand the time to be present, current, now. "I walk to class today," could also be understood as a scheduled activity. See Scheduled Events—Routine vs. Near Future.

² for a while (PP) – can be understood in two ways: (1) having some amount of duration, or (2) being very temporary

³ keep + verb+ing – Repetition can be expressed by using the "keep" (I keep walking.  He kept smiling.)  The progressive with "repeatedly" (*I am walking to class repeatedly. )sounds awkward.

ago (prep.) – is originally from "agone" meaning past. It is currently analyzed as a post-position preposition (Huddleston 7 4.2)

last (Adj) – is the superlative form of latelate, later, last.

Past tense practice pages:   Past vs. Past ProgressivePast ProgressiveWould / Used toReporting SourcePast Series, After, Before, When 

 

 

 

 

Future Adverbs (time expressions)

Specify the timing of an action or activity

airplane passenger
 

Future Time Expressions — definite vs. indefinite timing

DEFINITE TIMING

Adverbial expressions with definite timing are used when actions can be marked on a timeline (clock/calendar); they have endpoints/goals. Compare: I will be walking tomorrow. (definite timing, it ends when I arrive at class) to I will walk to class. (indefinite timing, "timeless", no endpoint, a routine).

BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

I will be walking to class at noon

I will walk to class at noon

I will be walking to class tomorrow

I will walk to class tomorrow.

AT, IN, ON THIS / NEXT / IN A…

at 6:00 AM(an earlier time—at noon yesterday, at midnight last week)

tomorrow(today, tonight) (a time not yet passed)

on January 10 (an earlier date—last Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, January 31, May 1, 2020)

next week( month, winter, year)  (origin: latest week)

in January (an earlier month, year, century— the 1990s, the 19th century)

this¹ Monday (week, month, year, Sunday, June, season, century) 

this coming Monday

as soon as they call (a relative point in time: when they arrive, as soon as she knows)

in a minute (second, a while, an hour, the coming week) 

 

still (with a negative verb: no longer)

Used with progressive.

from next Monday to next Tuesday(1 PM to 2 PM today, early this morning to tonight night)

INDEFINITE TIMING "HAPPENING SOMETIME"

Adverbial expressions with indefinite timing are used when activities or states happen "sometime", not related to a timeline. The precise time is not important. The focus is on the activity or state.  These adverbs express duration (a period of time) or repetition (the interval of occurrence).  

BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

I will be walking constantly.

I will walk during the week.

I will be walking to class often.

I will walk to class often.

DURATION — PERIOD REPETITION — INTERVAL

temporarily(continuously, briefly, momentarily) [imperfective, ongoing] ⇒ Mostly progressive.

repeatedly(constantly, continuously, again and again, perpetually, eternally)⇒ Switch to "keep" with progressive.³

for a moment (ten minutes, a week, a month, for a while², a little while, a day,  forever)  ⇒ Often present perfect.

always (routinely, customarily, usually, in general, normally, often, sometimes, hardly ever, never)

during the week (month, year, etc.) ⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

at night (noon, midnight, sunset)

in spring (winter, summer, June, July)

from Monday to Tuesday(1 PM to 2 PM, morning to night)

on Mondays (Tuesday, Sundays, etc.)

most days (nights, weekends, etc.)

while it is warm(a relative period of time: when, if, whenever, before, after)  before sunrise  (after)

every / each / every other  (hour, day, night, week, month, year, May, spring)

 

¹ expressions such as this month include time that is past, present and future. With the future tense, we understand the time to be later than now. The expression this coming Monday indicates the next Monday on the calendar from now.

² for a while (PP) – can be understood in two ways: (1) having some amount of duration, or (2) being very temporary

³ keep + verb+ing – Repetition can be expressed by using the "keep" (I keep walking.  He kept smiling.)  The progressive with "repeatedly" (*I will be walking to class repeatedly. ) sounds awkward.

to class repeatedly. )sounds awkward.

 

 

 

Future Tense Sentences

FUTURE NONPROGRESSIVE

 Adverbs with the future nonprogressive express a specific or indefinite future time, or a relative future event. (I will call you If I don't see you.) The future is formed with the modal will + plain verb form, or with the present tense and a future adverb.                                                                                                                                        

We will fly to Spain in January. (plan for a future date)

We will fly to Spain when the game Olympic games begin.(relative activity) 

We will fly to Spain next year. (prediction, plan, hope)

We are going to take a four-week vacation soon.

The plane leaves tonight. (scheduled future event)

I will be on the next plane.  (determination, will, volition)

(no equivalent nonprogressive phrasing)

We will call you if we have an extra room for you. (future condition)
 

FUTURE PROGRESSIVE 

 Adverbs used with future progressive tend to emphasize duration or repetition.  In some cases, there is no difference in meaning when using the nonprogressive or progressive.  A clause with a future progressive tense may also serve as "backgrounding" for a second clause with the "main event."

We will fly to Spain in January. (a plan for a future date)

We will be flying to Spain when the game Olympic games begin. (relative timing)

We will be flying to Spain next week. (prediction; emphasis on time)

We will be taking a four-week vacation soon.

The plane is leaving tonight. (scheduled future event)

I will be being on the next plane. 

We will be walking to the beach by the time you arrive. (relative time)

~We will be calling you if we have an extra room for you. (future condition) 
 

 

*incorrect / ~awkward or borderline usage

Future practice pages: Will / Might: express varying degrees of certainty; Will / Would: express attitudes of determination, unwillingness or failure; Be going / Will: express immediate vs scheduled future events; Will be -ing: express future activities with focus on the flow of time; Present–Scheduled: express planned activities and events (future timing); After, Before, When: relate the timing of two activities; Time Relative Events: relate the timing of two activities (with before, after, when, as soon as)

Adverb practice pages:  For v. Since, Adverbs of Frequency.

 

 

 

Present Perfect Adverbs (time expressions)

Specify the timing of an action or activity

tourists
 

 

Adverbs for Present Perfect Tense

DEFINITE TIMING  "HAPPENING BEFORE AND UP TO NOW"

Adverbial expressions with definite timing are used when actions have starting times and ending times relative to the current moment (now). Compare (1) I have just walked to class this morning. The period ended when I arrived at class. (done, perfective) to (2) I have been walking to class this morning. The period will end when I arrive at class. (may be ongoing, imperfective)

BOTH PROG. NONPROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

He has just visited Pisa.

He has just been visiting Pisa.

He has visited Pisa today.

He has been visiting Pisa today

TIME PERIOD RELATIVE TO NOW STARTING TIME TO NOW

just (just, recently, [neg.] lately)

I have just walked a mile.

I have just been walking a mile.

today¹ / tonight (a time starting from within this time to current time) 

 

so far(to date, up to now, until now)

I have read 40 pages so far.

*I have been reading 40 pages so far.

this month¹  (a time starting from within this time to current tim:morning, evening, week, semester, this spring, year, decade, century)

already (earlier than expected)

I have walked 10 minutes already.

I have been walking 10 minutes already.

since / ever since(from this time to current time: 6:00 AM, noon, midnight, this morning, May 2012; ever since I met you)

yet (later than expected)

I haven't walked 10 minutes yet.

*I haven't been walking 10 minutes yet.

from last Monday until now(1 PM until now)

 

 

 

 

INDEFINITE TIMING "HAPPENING SOMETIME"

Adverbial expressions with indefinite timing are used when activities or states happen "sometime", not related to the current moment (now). The precise time is not important. The focus is on the activity or state.  These adverbs express duration (a period of time) or repetition (the interval of occurrence). They are mostly imperfective (may extend in the future).

MOSTLY PROGRESSIVE BOTH PROG. & NONPROGRESSIVE

He has visited Pisa recently.

He has been visiting temporarily.

He has often given tours.

~He has often been giving tours.

DURATION— PERIOD REPETITION — INTERVAL

temporarily(continuously, briefly, momentarily) [imperfective, ongoing]

⇒ Mostly progressive.

repeatedly(constantly, continuously, again and again, perpetually, eternally)

⇒ Switch to "keep" with progressive.³

for a moment (ten minutes, a week, a month, for a while², a little while, a day,  forever)  ⇒ Often present perfect.

always (routinely, customarily, usually, in general, normally, often, sometimes, hardly ever, never) 

during the week (month, year, etc.)

⇒ Mostly nonprogressive.

ever  (requesting any experience: before) 

from Monday to Tuesday(1 PM to 2 PM, morning to night)

all my life

at night (noon, midnight, sunset)

in spring (winter, summer, June, July)

while it is warm(a relative period of time: when, if, whenever, before, after)  before sunrise  (after)

on Mondays (Tuesday, Sundays, etc.)

most days (nights, weekends, etc.)

over the past year (weeks, decades, centuries)

throughout the year (weeks, decades, centuries)

every / each / every other  (hour, day, night, week, month, year, May, spring)

 

*not used / awkward sounding or requires a special context

¹ time expressions such as like today or this month include time that is past, present and future. With the present tense, we understand the time to be present, current, now.

² for a while (PP) – can be understood in two ways: (1) having some amount of duration, or (2) being very temporary

³ keep + verb+ing – Repetition can be expressed by using the "keep" (I keep walking.  He kept smiling.)  The progressive with "repeatedly" (*I am walking to class repeatedly. )sounds awkward.

Also see Ever v. Never, Already v. Yet., Adverbs of Frequency, For v Since.

 

 

 

 

Sentences with Present Perfect Adverbs

PRESENT PERFECT NONPROGRESSIVE

Adverbs used with present perfect nonprogressive focus on the situation or activity.                          

ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY

They have always  worked to save the Tower of Pisa. duration, permanent

SO FAR

They have worked efficiently so far.

THIS

They have worked very hard this year.

SINCE / FOR

They have worked for twelve years / since 1998.

RECENCY

They haven't worked on it lately.  

ALREADY / YET

They have already  repaired the base.

REPETITION 

They have tried several times to save the Tower of Pisa.

PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE

 Adverbs used with present perfect progressive focus on the timing of the situation or activity.

ADVERBS OF FREQUENCY

They have  always been working to save the Tower of Pisa. emphasizes ongoing, repetition 

SO FAR

They have been working efficiently so far. emphasizes ongoing, repetition 

THIS

They have been working very hard this year. emphasizes ongoing, repetition 

SINCE / FOR

They have been working for twelve years / since 1998. emphasizes ongoing, repetition 

RECENCY

They have been working on it lately.

ALREADY / YET

*They have  already been repairing the foundation. 

Not used with progressive. 

REPETITION 

*They have been trying several times to save the Tower of Pisa.

The adverb is unnecessary (and awkward) because the tense carries the meaning of repetition.

They kept trying to save the Tower of Pisa.  

"Keep" or "continued" carries a meaning of repetition. No adverb is needed.

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

Present Perfect (Simple) & Progressive Verb Types

SIMPLE TENSE VERB TYPES

A verb expressing a general situation or activity tends to be used in the nonprogressive tense for a situation that has continued from past to present.  These are also called "process verbs".

We have worked on the repairs for a year.  (labor on, undertake, manage)

They have become more modern.

He has traveled three thousand miles so far.

We have known the Kramers for several years.

PROGRESSIVE TENSE VERB TYPES

A verb expressing an activity that is dynamic (not static) and directed toward an end can be used in the progressive tense with the meaning of ongoing, repetition. See Duration v. Completion.

We have been repairing cracks in the walls. (locate, fill, seal, etc.)

We have repaired the cracks in the wall.  (meaning differs: completed)

We have been visiting 11th century landmarks in Europe.  (see, travel to, tour)

He has been driving for a week. (drive, walk, pedal, etc.)

We have been taking trips with the Kramers for several years. (have dinner, go to games)

 

Practice pages: Up to Now, So Far, Duration/ Repetition, Permanent/Temp, Experience, Ongoing, Just / Recently, Already / Yet, Present State of Mind 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Linguistic Description

 

 

Linguistic Description

ADVERBS

The traditional terms, "adverb" or "adverbial phrase" have undergone some changes.  Some words have been reassigned to other categories, such as Noun or Preposition.
For details, see Huddleston 8 §6.3, Biber 2.3.4, and Swan 22.6.

ADVERBS

currently, presently, immediately, earlier, early,  lately, recently, soon, formerly, subsequently

ADVWe'll see you early / soon / subsequently.

 

already, yet, still, any longer

NP positive – We finishing our project already.  (+ polarity)
NP negative – We haven't our project yet. (- polarity)

(Huddleston 6 §5.2, §7.1)

FREQUENCY ADVERBS

twice, always, sometimes, usually, etc.

Frequency ADVWe usually arrive on time.   (Adjunct –may be omitted)

"Adjuncts of frequency express quantification in the clause in a way which is comparable to that of quantifiers in the structure of NPs."   (Huddleston 8 §9)
He always falls. → He falls every time.  

Also see Swan 23.3

OTHER

An adverb may be a verb complement (a required element) "The meeting is at noon."  or a verbal adjunct (not required) "The meeting will include a break at 2 p.m." The time may be an "interval" or a "point"; it may be "perfective" (completed) or "imperfective" (ongoing); It may have "polarity" (positive or negative context).   For other aspects, see Huddleston 8 §6.3. 

PREPOSITIONS

after, ago, at, before, between, by , during, in, into, on, since, toward

PP+NP – in, on, at, during, by   We'll see you in three weeks / in June / on Sunday / by dinner time / during the break.

PP + Finite Clause – before, after, as, once, since: We'll see you after we arrive / before we leave.

PP + Nonfinite Clause – before, after, between, on, once, since: We'll see you after arriving / before leaving.

PP – after, before, now, since, then, throughout: We'll see you afterwards.

NOUNS

yesterday, today, tomorrow, tonight, Sunday, Monday, sometime, etc.

morning, noon, evening, night,

second, minute, moment, week, month, year

NPWe'll see you tonight / this evening.  (determiner + noun)

 

 

CATEGORIES:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective; Nonfinite Clause / Finite Clause
FUNCTIONS: Subject:  Subject,   Predicate: Predicator (V) Complements: (elements required by verb) Object, Indirect Object, Predicative Complement  Adjuncts: (optional modifiers) Adj, Adv

 

Works Cited

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Biber, Douglas, and Stig Johansson, et al. Longman Grammar Of Spoken And Written English. Pearson Education, 1999.
  • 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

 

Adverb practice pages:  Present adverbs,  Past adverbs, Future adverbs,  Present perfect adverbs  

Present tense practice pages:  Present–General Truth,  Present–At Moment, Present–Habitual, Present ProgressiveAdverbs of Frequency

Past tense practice pages:   Past CompletePast ProgWould / Used toReporting SourcePast Series, After, Before, When 

Future practice pages:  Will / Might,  Present–Scheduled, Will / Would, May / Can,  Present–Scheduled, After, Before, When, Prepositions of time, By the time

Present perfect practice pages: Up to Now, So Far, Duration/ Repetition, Permanent/Temp, Experience, Ongoing, Just / Recently, Already / Yet, Present State of Mind