Basic English Grammar: ADVERBS OF TIME

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Adverbs of time tell us when an action happened, but also for how long, and how often. Adverbs of time are invariable. They are extremely common in English. Adverbs of time have standard positions in a sentence depending on what the adverb of time is telling us.

ADVERBS THAT TELL US WHEN

Adverbs that tell us when are usually placed at the end of the sentence.

EXAMPLES

  • I saw Sally today.
  • I will call you later.
  • I have to leave now.
  • I saw that movie last year.



Putting an adverb that tells us when at the end of a sentence is a neutral position, but these adverbs can be put in other positions to give a different emphasis. All adverbs that tell us when can be placed at the beginning of the sentence to emphasize the time element. Some can also be put before the main verb in formal writing, while others cannot occupy that position.

EXAMPLES

  • Later Goldilocks ate some porridge.
  • Goldilocks later ate some porridge.
  • Goldilocks ate some porridge later.

ADVERBS THAT TELL US FOR HOW LONG

Adverbs that tell us for how long are also usually placed at the end of the sentence.

EXAMPLES

  • She stayed in the Bears’ house all day.
  • My mother lived in France for a year.
  • I have been going to this school since 2017.

In these adverbial phrases that tell us for how long, for is always followed by an expression of duration, while since is always followed by an expression of a point in time.

EXAMPLES

  • I stayed in Switzerland for three days.
  • I am going on vacation for a week.
  • I have been riding horses for several years.

ADVERBS THAT TELL US HOW OFTEN

Adverbs that tell us how often express the frequency of an action. They are usually placed before the main verb but after auxiliary verbs (such as be, have, may, & must). The only exception is when the main verb is “to be”, in which case the adverb goes after the main verb.

EXAMPLES

  • I often eat vegetarian food.
  • He never drinks milk.
  • I am seldom late.
  • He rarely lies.

Many adverbs that express frequency can also be placed at either the beginning or the end of the sentence, although some cannot be. When they are placed in these alternate positions, the meaning of the adverb is much stronger.

 

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