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Adverbs of Time

What is an adverb of time?

Adverbs that change or qualify the meaning of a sentence by telling us when things happen are defined as adverbs of time.

An adverb of time is just what you might expect it to be - a word that describes when, for how long, or how often a certain action happened. You will notice that many adverbs of time are the same as adverbs of frequency. There is quite a bit of overlap between these two types of adverbs - so much so that some instructors choose to mention one or the other but not both.

These simple rules for adverbs of time will help you to use them the right way:

  • Adverbs of time often work best when placed at the end of sentences. For example:
    • Robin Hood swindled the Sheriff of Nottingham yesterday.
    • I'm sick of living in chaos, so I'm going to clean my house tomorrow.
  • You can change the position of an adverb of time to lend emphasis to a certain aspect of a sentence. For example:
    • Later Robin Hood stole the king's crown. (The time is the most important element here.)
    • Robin Hood later stole the king's crown. (This is a formal way to use the adverb later. Notice how the statement sounds like it belongs in a police report.)
    • Robin Hood stole the king's crown later. (This is a neutral, standard way to use the adverb later.)
  • Adverbs of time describing for how long an action occurred usually work best at the end of a sentence. For example:
    • She stayed at her grandmother's house all day.
    • My father was up with heartburn for hours.
  • Adverbs of time that express an exact number of times the action happens usually work best at the end of a sentence. For example:
    • The newspaper arrives daily.
    • They go out to dinner weekly.
    • Our family goes on an outing monthly.
  • When using more than one adverb of time in a sentence, use them in the following order:
    • 1. How long
    • 2. How often
    • 3. When
  • For example:

    • She volunteered at the hospital (1) for three days (2) every month (3) last year.

Examples of Adverbs of Time

Each sentence contains an example of an adverb of time; the examples are italicized for easy identification.

Are you coming to work tomorrow?

I'd like to go to the movies later.

Jim was so sick he spent four weeks in the hospital.