Time Expressions and Tenses

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Here is a quick overview of time expressions used with specific tenses including examples and explanations.

Days of the Week

Days of the week can be used with most tenses in English. Notice that all days of the week are capitalized.

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday

I'll see you next Sunday.
We had a meeting last Thursday.
Jennifer has her programming course on Wednesday.

When speaking about an action that is repeated EVERY Saturday, Monday, etc.

use the day of the week add 's' and use either the present simple to speak about present routines, or the past simple to discuss past habits. Do not use with the continuous, perfect or perfect continuous forms. 

Mondays
Tuesdays
Wednesdays
Thursdays
Fridays
Saturdays
Sundays

We have our class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 
I used to play tennis on Saturdays.

The Weekend

British English: at the weekend OR at weekends (in general)
American English: on the weekend OR on weekends (in general)

Use the present simple to speak about habits on the weekend. 'On the weekend' is also used with the future and past to speak about the next or last weekend.

I play tennis at weekends.
She visits her mother on the weekend.
We're going to the beach on the weekend. (next weekend)
They visited Chicago on the weekend. (last weekend)

Times of the Day

Use the following time expressions to express things that happen during the day.

These expressions can be used with the past, present, and future forms. 

in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening
at night

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.
We'll do the homework in the evening.
She had a drink in the evening before she went to bed. 

 

Time Expressions to Use with the Present Simple

Use 'every' with segments of time such as every day, month, year, every two months, 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

Use 'now', 'at the moment', 'right now' or 'today' with the present continuous to speak about what is happening at the present moment.

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

Use 'last' when speaking about the previous week, month or year

They went on holiday last month.

Use 'yesterday' when speaking about the previous day. Use 'the day before yesterday' to speak about two days earlier. 

I visited my best friend yesterday.
They had math class the day before yesterday. 

 

Use 'ago' 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.
The class started twenty minutes ago. 

Use 'in' with specific years or months with past, present, and future tenses.

She graduated in 1976.
We'll see each other in April. 

 

Use 'when' with a past time clause.

I played tennis every day when I was a teenager.

Time Expressions Used in the Future

Use 'next' to speak about the next week, month, or year.

We are going to visit our friends in Chicago next week.
I'll have some time off next month. 

Use 'tomorrow' for the next day.

He'll be at the meeting tomorrow.

Use 'in X weeks, days, years' time 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.

Use 'by (date)' 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.

Use 'by the time + time clause ' 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.