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Time Adverbials

What are time adverbials?

Time adverbials are words or phrases that tell us when a sentence is taking place. Here are some examples of time adverbials:


Next, beat the eggs using a whisk.

I walked to the shops before I had my lunch.

Ben ate some spaghetti later.


As you can see, time adverbials can be put in various positions within a sentence. That is really important because the position a time adverbial is put in can change its emphasis. When time adverbials are used at the start of sentences, the time element is emphasised. In this position, time adverbials are followed by a comma. When time adverbials are positioned at the end of sentences, this is an neutral position with no particular emphasis. Some time adverbials can be placed before the main verb in formal writing.


Later, Jack climbed the beanstalk. (the time is important)

Jack later climbed the beanstalk. (this is more formal, like a police report)

Jack climbed the beanstalk later. (this is neutral with no particular emphasis)


Time adverbials can also be used to indicate how long:


I have been looking forward to this all day.

He has worked on the painting for a year. 

She has worked for the company since 1985.


Time adverbials can also be used to indicate how often. They are normally placed before the main verb in the sentence.


I often wash my car.

He never breaks the classroom rules.

You must always look both ways.

I am seldom scared of rollercoasters.

She rarely gets angry.

Which texts use time adverbials?

Time adverbials are used in many different texts.Here are some examples of text types that use time adverbials:

Time adverbials in narrative writing:

Children will be encouraged to use time adverbials within their narrative (story) writing. They help to link events together and order events that happen within the narrative. Here is an example of how time adverbials could be used within a story:


Once upon a time, there lived a young boy called Jack. He lived with his mother in a small cottage and they were very poor. One day, Jack's mother told Jack to take their cow to market to sell for money. Jack got ready and then started the long walk to town with the cow. On the way, Jack bumped into a rather strange man who convinced Jack to give him the cow in return for three magic beans. When Jack told his mother what had happened, she was furious and threw the beans out of the window. It was hard for Jack to sleep that night. He was worried about how he had upset his mother.


Time adverbials in instructions:

Children will be shown that time adverbials can be used in instructions to make the order of steps clear to the reader. In this text type, they are used at the start of sentences to emphasise their importance. Here is an example of how time adverbials could be used within instructions:


First, tip the flour in into the bowl.

Then, add the sugar, yeast and cardamom.

After that, mix together to combine.


Why not download this handy bank of Time Adverbials for Instructions to print off and use.


              Time adverbials in explanation texts:

Children will be shown that time adverbials can be used in explanation texts to order the stages of a process, making it easier for the reader to understand. Again, as with instructions, they are used at the start of the sentences so that the time element is emphasised. Here is an example of how time adverbials are used within explanation texts:


1. To start the process, the honeybee finds a plant or flower which contains nectar. Once they find a suitable site, the bee drinks the nectar using a long tube-like tongue called a proboscis. Following that, the nectar, which has been collected, is stored in their stomach.

How can children be taught to use time adverbials?


Identifying time adverbials in texts they read:

The first step to teaching children about time adverbials is through identifying them in the texts they read. In shared reading sessions, time adverbials can be identified and the reason for their inclusion can be discussed. Children could then be asked to find other examples of time adverbials within the rest of the text. Doing this sort of activity is a good way to generate a useful bank of time adverbials that children can then refer to when producing their own writing.


Using time adverbials in talk prior to writing:

Another really useful method for helping children to use time adverbials is through talk. Children could, for example, rehearse a cookery show in which they must use time adverbials in their speech. They might recount an experience they have had to a partner. The partner could have a checklist of time adverbials which they could 'tick off' when they hear them! Having a word bank of time adverbials can be used by children when rehearsing what they want to say and will encourage them to include them within their speech. With this experience, using time adverbials in their writing will be much easier for children.


Word banks and visual aids:

When learning to use time adverbials in their writing, it is useful for children to have word banks of examples to refer to. You could get children to cross off those they use or set a target of how many you want them to include. This will help children to avoid the pitfall of using the same time adverbial over and over again in the same text!


Why not download this free Time Adverbial Word Bank which you can use to support children use time adverbials in their writing.


Self and peer assessment:

Planning in opportunities for children to read back their writing and reflect on their use of time adverbials is really important. This should be done reguarly throughout the lesson in 'mini-plenaries' as a way to refocus children on the learning objective. It is also a good idea to get children to read each other's writing and look out for examples of time adverbials. They can then offer each other useful feedback.



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FREE: Time Adverbials Word Bank