Adverb groups

Types of meaning

Describing time and timing

We use adverbs to help communicate when, how often, and how long for an action took place.

These 'timing' adverbs include words such as yesterday, tomorrow, always, already, before, later, now and then—and you'll notice that none of these are -ly ending adverbs!

There are also some multi-word adverbs like all daylong ago, and once upon a time. They work just like regular adverbs, but sometimes include words that aren't adverbs on their own (like the noun day, in 'all day').

Let's take a look at some timing adverbs in action.

What aspect of timing is this adverb group showing?

And so at last they were able to haul the man through the thud and tug of the sea to the shore.

Storm BoyColin ThieleSource

It's showing when they were able to haul the man. At last.

Here are a couple of examples with different adverb groups showing when actions happen

He claimed he had gone into space the year before.

That morning the coach strode onto the field and snapped her clipboard in two.

Your turn
Here are some 'when' adverbs to help you

What do adverb groups tell us about time in this next snippet?

Once they locked me up all day long.

The Story of Tracy BeakerJacqueline WilsonSource

Each adverb group tells us something different about timing.

All day long tells us how long the narrator was locked up for. 

Once tells us about how often they locked the narrator up all day long.

Advanced: What is 'once' actually attached to in this snippet?

What do the timing adverb groups tell us about the actions in this next snippet?

Until now, swimming with crocodiles had always been an abstract idea, but suddenly it was a reality.

The Accidental Naturalist: My Wild YearsBen FogleSource

This one is complicated.

Again, we have an adverb telling us how long swimming with crocodiles had been an abstract idea (until now), and another telling us how often it seemed like an abstract idea (always).

We also have the adverb suddenly which tells us both how long it took for the idea to switch from abstract to reality and in what manner that switch happened (suddenly, meaning it was quick and unexpected).

Here are a couple of examples showing more 'how long for' adverb groups:

She wept all night in the tomb.

Claire did ballet for two years before she tore her ankle.

Advanced: 'For' is actually a preposition

Here are a couple of examples of 'how often' adverb groups:

Judy reminds me to go outside every now and then.

Hector trained every morning and every afternoon with his shield and javelin.

Here are a couple of examples that include both 'how long for' and 'how often' adverb groups:

Every Tuesday, Chris and Tim played chess for an hour.

Neal told me his tooth had been aching since last week, and he'd never felt a pain like it.

Try writing some of your own variations

Here are some adverbs of time to help you
Your turn
Your turn
Your turn

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