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Archive Language Point 76

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Time expressions

Tim and Alice looking over Helen's shoulder as she sits at her laptop

Background

There are a great variety of expressions that are used to refer to time: a selection is presented here. Most of them function as adverbials or prepositional phrases.

For more information about 'adverbials', go to Grammar and Vocabulary: Learn It

For more information about prepositions of time, go to: The Flatmates: Episode 44


Referring to the past

a short time ago:
this means something was recent.
Example:
I've already heard the news. She told me a short time ago.

the other day:
this means that something was recent, without saying exactly which day.
Example:
I went shopping the other day.

ages and ages ago:
this means something was not recent; it happened a long time ago.
Example:
I've known about it for a very long time. She told me ages and ages ago.

many moons ago :
this means something was not recent; it happened a long time ago.
Example:
Many moons ago, he told me the story of his life.


Referring to the present

for the time being: at the moment, until something changes.
Example:
For the time being, I'm catching the bus to work, but I hope to get a bicycle soon.

these days: the current period of time. NOTE: we don't usually say 'in these days'.
Example:
These days I'm happy at work, but there were times in the past when I was unhappy.

in this day and age:
the present era; the current period of time in history.
Example:
In this day and age it is normal for women to be senior managers, but it wasn't always like that.

Very soon or immediately

as soon as possible:
this is often a polite way to ask someone to do something soon.
Example:
Could you please return the books to me as soon as possible?

straight away: immediately.
Example:
Let's call him straight away.

in a minute or two / in a second or two:
shortly; very soon. It is common to be a little vague when talking about time, so we use 'or two'.
Example:
Sorry to keep you waiting. I'll be with you in a minute or two.

Referring to the future

by the end of the month:
something will happen before this current month finishes.
Example:
The new restaurant will be open by the end of the month.

this time next year:
about one year from now.
Example:
This time next year, we'll be millionaires!

in the not too distant future:
fairly soon.
Example:
I'll be seeing my sister in the not too distant future.

Duration (a length of time)

Not much longer / not any more / not any longer:
these all mean that a period of time for something needs to end soon.
Example:
I can't wait any longer, I'll have to leave in a minute or two.

For the foreseeable future:
a period of time from now into the future, a future that is near enough to be reasonably sure what will happen.
Example:
I'm going to continue working here for the foreseeable future. I have no plans to change my career and my school is happy with my work.

For as long as anyone can remember:
this means that no-one can remember a time when this thing did not exist or happen. This expression is not always used literally: it simply means a period of time that started a long time ago.
Example:
For as long as anyone can remember, fish and chips has been the national food of Britain.

Vocabulary

fair enough
ok, fine, no problem

twitchy
nervous, worried, uncomfortable

colleague
a person who works with you, or at the same place as you

advert
short for 'advertisement'
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