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Use of Time Expressions

Time expressions are often the key to understanding and planning written work. Students can improve their written and spoken accuracy by having a good grasp of the relationship between time expressions and tenses. This lesson includes an identification and matching exercise and is followed by a longer sentence construction exercise to give students practice in correct sentence structure. This lesson can be used together with suggestions on how to teach tenses to help students improve their knowledge of tense use.

Aim: Increased awareness and/or review of relationship between time expressions and tenses

Activity: Identification and matching exercise, followed by sentence completion

Level: Intermediate to Upper Intermediate


  • Write a number of time expressions on the board and ask students to identify which tenses can be used with the various time expressions.
  • Shortly review the more difficult time expressions with the class.
  • Distribute worksheet.
  • Have students work together in small groups to complete the first exercise.
  • Correct the exercise in class, making sure to review problem areas.
  • Have students complete the written work by themselves.
  • Ask students to exchange the exercise and check each other's work - this helps students further inductively improve their skills by seeing how other students have used the time expressions.
  • Finish with a follow up discussion of any problematic areas.
  • Have students write an autobiography or biography of a famous person employing the time expressions employed in the lesson.

Matching and Identifying Time Expressions

Draw a line to the time expression with the sentence fragment. Complete by drawing a line to the correct tense identification.

Sentence Fragment Time Expression Tense Used
John will have completed the fourth grade...

We are studying Roman history...

They haven't finished their homework...

Jack gets up early...

...I will give you a ring.

I began skiing...

...she was reading a book.

He had been waiting...

I used to play tennis every day...

Maria has been living in Pisa...

I will be sleeping...

We've been to Paris ...

I'm going to visit Germany...

....she had already eaten dinner.

...at the moment.

As soon as I arrive,...

...when I was a teenager.

...for two hours when you arrived.

When I arrived,...

...three times this year.

...by next June.

at this time tomorrow.

...since 1997.

When we arrived,...

...on Saturdays.


...five years ago.

...in April.

future plan or intention

present perfect continuous

present simple

past simple

future perfect

future time clause

present perfect

present continuous

past perfect

future continuous

past continuous

present perfect continuous

past perfect continuous

past simple for habits in the past

Complete the Sentences

  • ...when I was younger.
  • ...for many years.
  • ...this time next week.
  • ...on weekends.
  • After he finishes his homework,...
  • By the time you receive this letter,...
  • ...three years ago.
  • ...this week.
  • ...since 2005.
  • ...while I was watching TV.
  • ...next year.
  • ...yet.
  • ...yet?
  • Usually,...
  • ...in June.

Exercise Answers

Exercise 1

  • John will have completed the fourth grade by next June. - future perfect
  • We are studying Roman history at the moment. - present continuous
  • They haven't finished their homework yet. - present perfect
  • Jack gets up early on Saturdays. - present simple
  • As soon as I arrive, I will give you a ring. - future time clause
  • I began skiing five years ago. - past simple
  • When we arrived, she was reading a book. - past continuous
  • He had been waiting for two hours when you arrived. - past perfect continuous
  • I used to play tennis every day when I was a teenager. - past simple for habits in the past
  • Maria has been living in Pisa since 1997. - present perfect continuous
  • I will be sleeping at this time tomorrow. - future continuous
  • We've been to Paris three times this year. - present perfect
  • I'm going to visit Germany in April. - future plan or intention
  • When we arrived, she had already eaten dinner. - past perfect

Exercise 2 - Possible Answers

  • I enjoyed going to school when I was younger.
  • She's played golf for many years.
  • We'll be enjoying ourselves on vacation this time next week.
  • Tom usually works around the house on weekends.
  • After he finishes his homework, he'll relax and watch TV.
  • By the time you receive this letter, I will have left and moved to San Francisco.
  • They went to Hawaii three years ago.
  • We're working on the Smith account this week.
  • I've lived in Portland, Oregon since 2005.
  • She gave me a call while I was watching TV.
  • We're going to travel to Sardinia next year.
  • I haven't finished my homework yet.
  • Have you finished the report yet?
  • Usually, I like to read a book in the evening.
  • I'll see you in June.
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