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Adverbs of Time in English Grammar

Adverbs of Time are those adverbs which tell us when something happened. For example: now, then, later, yesterday, today, tonight, tomorrow, etc.

Position

The position of a typical adverb of time within a sentence varies according to the relevance the speaker wants to give to the time element.

relevance position example
high start of sentence Yesterday her closest work colleague handed in his resignations.
low end of sentence Her closest work colleague handed in his resignations yesterday.

In formal writing some adverbs of time are used before the main verb. However not all adverbs of time can go in front of a verb.

So while we can say:

Her closest work colleague later handed in his resignations.

We cannot say:

*Her closest work colleague yesterday handed in his resignations.

Form

Adverbs of time can consists of just one word (yesterday, later, today, tomorrow, etc.) or include more words. When they are made of more than one word (all night, for a month, since 2013, etc). they are known as adverbial phrases.

When the adverb of time is an adverbial phrase it usually goes at the end of a sentence.

We are vegan and have not been eating any food of animal origin for 10 years.

Note: Adverbial phrases containing the preposition for are always followed by an expression of duration.

She taught in the same school for 25 years.

 I’d really like to be a movie star for a day!

 He has been unemployed for several years.

Adverbial phrases containing the word since are always followed by a point in time.

I’ve not heard from her since Sunday.

Their dog has been barking non-stop since 5 am.

Unfortunately there have been no significant changes in her condition since 2013.

Adverb of Time or Adverb of Frequency

Here is a question for you: when we talk about how often something happens are we talking about time or frequency? The answer to this questions divides  grammarians. Some maintain that adverbs of frequency are simply adverbs of time, others think that adverbs of frequency should be treated as a category in its own right.

If you think words like daily, often, monthly, always, usually, etc. can be classified as adverbs of time, look no further. if instead you think that stating how often something takes place indicates frequency rather than time then check out our article on Adverbs of Frequency.

Useful Links

Adverbial Phrases‏‎ in English – learn more about adverbial phrases in general.

Adverbs‏‎ in English Grammar – all about the different types of adverbs.

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