Using the right tense depends on knowing when something happens. In order to discover this, it’s important to look for time expressions. Time expressions can introduce clauses, or just indicate the time of day. Time can also be indicated by context in longer selections. Brush up ontime expressions and then take this time expressions quiz to check your understanding. Teachers can use this time expressions lesson plan to help students become more conscious of the role of these words and phrases when conjugating tenses.
Days of the Week
Notice that all days of the week are capitalized. When speaking about an action that is repeated EVERY Saturday, Monday, etc. use the day of the week + ‘s’
British English: at the weekend OR at weekends (in general)
American English: on the weekends OR on weekends (in general)
I play tennis at weekends.
She visits her mother Tuesdays.
Times of the Day
Use the following time expressions to express things that happen during the day.
in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening
NOTE: Make sure to note that we say ‘at night’ NOT ‘in the night’
They do the cleaning in the morning.
He goes to bed late at night.
Time Expressions to Use with the Present Simple
every day, month, year, etc.
She travels to Las Vegas every year.
Jack tries to exercise every day.
adverbs of frequency (usually, sometimes, often, etc.)
They sometimes play golf.
She rarely smokes.
Time Expressions to Use with the Present Continuous
now – Tom is watching TV now.
today – I’m working on the Smith project today.
at the moment – Jane is doing her homework at the moment.
Time Expressions Often Used in the Past
last – used when speaking about the previous week, month or year
They went on holiday last month.
yesterday – used when speaking about the previous day
I visited my best friend yesterday.
ago – used when speaking about X days, weeks, months, years before. NOTE: ‘ago’ follows the number of days, weeks, etc.
We flew to Cleveland three weeks ago.
in – used with specific years or months
She graduated in 1976.
when – used with a past time clause
I played tennis every day when I was a teenager.
Time Expressions Used in the Future
next – We are going to visit our friends in Chicago next week.
tomorrow – He’ll be at the meeting tomorrow.
in X weeks, days, years time – use this expression with the future continuous to express what you will be doing at a specific of time in the future.
We will be swimming in a crystal blue sea in two weeks time.
by (date) – use this form with the future perfect to express what you will have done up to that point in time.
I will have finished the report by April 15.
by the time + time clause – use this form with the future perfect to express what will have happened up to a specific action in the future.
She will have bought a new home by the time he arrives.