Shortcuts English Speakers Use Talking About Periods of Time
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Hi there, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. If you’re listening on TuneIn, that’s good – the problem that we were having with TuneIn appears to have been solved and it’s working again so that all new podcasts should be on there. And if you are listening on one of the other platforms – welcome also. And you’ll know if you listen regularly that our podcasts go out on a Monday.
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So today I thought I would talk about some simple expressions about time in English. What I mean is things that we say, which tell you when in time something happened or when it’s going to happen. So most of you will probably know the word ‘today’ – that means this day, here and now. So today is the 7th August for example. You’ll probably also know ‘yesterday’ – which means the day before this one – so yesterday is always in the past. When today is 7th August, yesterday must be the 6th August. And you’ll also know the word ‘tomorrow’, which means the day after this one. So tomorrow is always in the future. In this case, tomorrow is the 8th August. So an example would be ‘Yesterday, I went shopping in London, today I’m staying at home and tomorrow, I will go and see my sister’. Notice how the verbs change from past to present tense and then to future tense. So nice and simple. But what about if you want to talk further ahead in time – so perhaps today is Monday and you want to talk about Wednesday. I know that in many languages there’s a word for that too, but in English if today is Monday and you want to talk about Wednesday, then you would say ‘the day after tomorrow’. And if today is Monday and you want to talk about the previous Saturday – previous means ‘in the past’ – then you would say ‘the day before yesterday’. You can also say ‘the previous day’ – to indicate the one before the one you were talking about. Previous means ‘earlier, in the past’. You can also say ‘the following day’ – and you can use these expressions….it doesn’t matter whether you are talking in the past or in the future. You might describe a holiday and say ‘We went to Brighton the previous day and we went to Bournemouth the next day’.
As well as saying today, you can also say tonight – so that means the night, or the evening which is part of this day. You can also say ‘this morning’, ‘this afternoon’, ‘this evening’ – to indicate the different parts of today. You can also say ‘yesterday morning’ or ‘yesterday afternoon’ or ‘yesterday evening’ but for some reason, we don’t say ‘yesterday night’ – we would always say ‘last night’ instead. You can also say ‘tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow evening’ – and you can also say ‘tomorrow night’.
So you’ll notice before that I was using the days of the week – so you probably know Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They’re probably some of the first English words that you learned. So you can say ‘on Wednesday’ or ‘on Sunday’ – and again it doesn’t matter, this can be in the future or in the past. So ‘On Wednesday, I went to the theatre’ and ‘On Sunday, I will go swimming’. But you will also hear people say ‘last Wednesday’ or ‘next Sunday’. So if you want to talk about something which happened recently or is going to happen soon, these are easy ways to say it. You can also say of course, last week, or next week, last month or next month, last year or next year. So all easy ways to talk about something….when something happened or when something is going to happen.
Another way of expressing time, using days of the week, which you’ll hear in English – someone might say ‘Oh, it happened a week last Sunday’. So here the person is talking about something which happened in the past – and it didn’t happen last Sunday – it was the Sunday before that one. A week last Sunday. You can also do something similar with the future – you can say, ‘We’re going on our holiday a week on Friday’. So this means count up to this coming Friday, then add another week onto that – and that’s the Friday when we’re going on holiday. So a week on Friday.
What you’ll also hear people say – they’ll use the date in the month. So they might say ‘Oh, we’re going to a party on the 25th’ or they might say ‘on the 25th of this month’ or ‘on the 12th of next month’. And of course, you can do this in the past too – so you could say ‘Yes, there was a really bad storm on the 6th’. So again, just phrases to indicate when in time something happened. So when I’m saying ‘the 25th’, ‘the 12th’, ‘the 6th’, I mean ‘of the month’. So it might be the 25th August or the 12th June or whatever.
Another very useful word in English to do with time is ‘ago’. Ago shows you that something is in the past. So you can say ‘five minutes ago’, ‘an hour ago’, ‘a week ago’, ‘two weeks’ ago – or even ‘five years ago’ or ‘a century ago’. A century means one hundred years. So you can use ago to indicate the timing of something which happened in the past – and how much time has passed since. So you can also say things like ‘It was a long time ago’.
If you’re talking about the future, you may also hear someone say ‘in a week’s time’ or ‘in a week’. So this means a week into the future. You can also say ‘in five minute’s time’ or ‘in five minutes’. So my son might say ‘Can I have an ice cream?’ and I might say ‘Yes, but not now. In five minute’s time’. Again there’s no time limit – you can say ‘in a hundred year’s time’ or ‘in a hundred years’. So, an example here might be – ‘In a hundred year’s time, we won’t need to learn languages – we’ll all be able to read each other’s thoughts’ – or ‘in a hundred year’s time, we’ll all have flying cars’ or something like that.
One word we use for time in the UK, which you won’t find so much in American English – for two weeks, we sometimes say ‘a fortnight’, so F-O-R-T-N-I-G-H-T. So you might hear people say ‘a fortnight ago’ or ‘in a fortnight’s time’. ‘How long before you go back to college?’ ‘A fortnight’. It’s old English and short for ‘fourteen nights’. So one person might say ‘How long are you going to be on holiday for then? One week or two?’ and the other person replies ‘Oh, we’re going for a fortnight’.
OK, have a practice at these. Most of them are fairly simple and you probably know quite a few of them already. There are plenty more expressions and phrases to do with time in English, but this is a good start. Listen to the podcast a number of times. Practice until you can understand every word. Then listen a few more times, so that the listening and the understanding is no effort.
Enough for now, have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.