One of the most useful phrase categories in convo lessons is without a doubt adverbials of time. Adverbs, the words of how, are incredibly useful for moving on your fluency at the best of times. Adverbials of time in particular describe when things took place. Now, then, last week, soon, suddenly… Sequence, frequency, calendar, you name it. Unsurprisingly, they’re often those little words we grasp desperately at when trying to talk about our daily lives in a new foreign language.
These little helpers are valuable power-ups towards fluency in the early stages of learning a language. They can even help you to communicate without knowing the full selection of verb tenses. For instance, “I go tomorrow” is as valid as “I will go tomorrow” in English. And even when the sentence is less grammatical, the sense is still there. “I go yesterday” is still understandable, even if it sounds a bit pidgin. In short, adverbials of time can help you make yourself understood even in the absence of an advanced knowledge of grammar.
Another reason they’re so fundamental is their use as social glue. When you start interacting in the target language, you can find yourself planning and organising with others. Lesson times, study group meet-ups and such like all require time negotiations. Adverbs and adverbial phrases of time are the flesh and blood of the language of organising.
This hit home recently when I joined an informal local pub meet-up for beginners’ Gaelic chat in Edinburgh. It’s a lovely, super-keen group, and everyone wants to try and communicate in the language all the time. This includes the group WhatsApp, where it very quickly became apparent that we’d need to look up phrases like ‘next week’, ‘tonight’ and so on. Time phrases to the rescue again!
Time for some vocab…
So we’re agreed, these words are super handy. So handy, in fact, that I’ve taken to keeping a crib document in each of my languages just for them. And since Scottish Gaelic is everywhere right now (thanks, Duolingo!) here is my list sa Ghàidhlig, one of my most active personal projects at the moment. I hope you find it useful!
Feel free to use the English column to start your own in other languages, or download this template with gaps to fill in yourself.
Narrating in time
|then (at that time)||an uair sin|
|already||mu thràth / mar thà|
|immediately, at once||anns a’ bhad|
|firstly, at first||an toiseach|
|at (long) last, eventually||mu dheireadh (thall)|
|never / ever||a-riamh|
|usually, normally||mar as/bu trice *|
|every day||gach latha / a h-uile latha|
|every week||gach seachdain|
|every month||gach mìos|
|every year||gach bliadhna|
|all the time||fad na h-ùine|
Not strictly speaking adverbials of time, but they are quite a good fit with this group of words, too.
|probably, maybe||is dòcha / ‘s dòcha|
|this week||an t-seachdain seo|
|last week||an t-seachdain sa chaidh|
|this month||air a ‘mhìos seo|
|last month||air a ‘mhìos a chaidh|
|this year||am bliadhna|
*as with present/future tenses and bu with past/conditional tenses
How many do you know in your target language(s) already? Are there any essential time phrases you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments!