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Last updated at 12:30 BST, Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Episode 201: Language Point

Alice outside the hospital lift


There are lots of expressions that are used to refer to time in English. Here are some that refer to the past, present and future.

Referring to the past

1. back in the old days
a long time ago
Example: Back in the old days people had to travel by horse. There were no trains, planes or cars 200 years ago.

2. back in the day
(informal) a long time ago
Example: Back in the day he was serious about football. Now he's at college he doesn't have time for games with us.

3. when someone was young / a boy / a girl
a time when an adult was younger
Example: When I was a girl everyone had to wear a school uniform. Now the youngsters can wear whatever they like to school.

4. before someone's time
before someone was born or was old enough to remember something Example: She doesn't remember Pele. He was before her time.

5. yesteryear
a time in the past
Example: This year's nominations for the Oscars were on the red carpet before the ceremony began, along with some of the great Hollywood stars of yesteryear.

Referring to the present

1. nowadays
currently (can refer to days, weeks, month or even years around now)
Example: Nowadays practically everyone who works in an office has a computer.

2. present-day (adj)
existing now or around now
Present-day attitudes about smoking are much more polarised than they used to be. People have very strong opinions now, either for or against it.

3. at the moment
He's unemployed at the moment but hoping to find some work very soon.

Very soon or immediately

1. in a jiffy
very soon
Example: I'll be down in a jiffy. Don't leave without me!

2. A.S.A.P/ asap
As soon as possible (note this is usually pronounced as separate letters A.S.A.P but is also now pronounced as one word – asap)
Example: Let me know asap if you're coming to the party or not. I need to know how many are coming so I can get the food organised.

3. in no time (at all) / next to no time
very quickly or very soon
Examples: The children ate their dinner in no time.
We'll be home in next to no time.

Referring to the future

1. by this time tomorrow / next week / next month etc.
in one day's / week's / month's etc. time
Example: By this time next week, I'll have finished all my exams and will be having a lovely time lazing on the beach. I can't wait!

2. in / for the foreseeable future
as far into the future as you can imagine or plan for
Example: He plans to work as a teacher for the foreseeable future.
Example: Is there a time in the foreseeable future when you can see yourself moving out of London?


You're looking a bit peaky
(informal) You don't look very well
Just doing my job
I'm not doing anything special or extra. I'm only doing what is expected of me
shove off
(informal) leave
written records connected with a particular job
ability to keep things secret that are confidential or that could be embarrassing if other people found out about them

Episode 201 links

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  3. Episode 201: Language Point