Time Clause

A clause is a unit of grammatical organization next below the sentence in rank and in traditional grammar said to consist of a subject and predicate (http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/clause). Then Time Clause is a clause which expresses time.

To introduce a time clause words like before, after, when, whenever, while, as soon as, until/till etc.are usually used. A time clause is a kind of dependent clause (it has a subject and a verb) and is used to tell when something happens. Future or conditional forms are not used in a time clause (all future forms become present tense when put in time clause).

Time clause may come before or after the main clause. A comma is needed when a time clause is put before the main clause. Pay attention to the following patterns:

1. Time Clause + Comma + Main Clause

2. Main Clause + No Comma + Time Clause


Before they watched TV, they did their homework.
I’ll leave after I have my breakfast.
Let’s take a look at each of the conjunction used in time clause.

1. Before

Before is used for something that occurs earlier than something else or prior to a certain time.


The secretary must finish arranging the schedule before her boss comes.
Before you go, you must lock the door.
I had never heard such boring story before he told it to me.

2. After

After is used for something that happens later than something else. In clauses after is frequently followed by perfect tenses. As you see the use of after in sentences below, you’ll notice that after and before have opposite meaning and they indicate relation between two times or events.


After she had taken a bath, she ate breakfast.
(First she took a bath then she ate breakfast, or you can reverse the sentence using before –>> Before she ate breakfast, she took a bath)

I planted the tree after I had dug the hole.

(First I dug the hole then I planted the tree, or you can reverse the sentence using before –>> Before I planted the tree, I dug the hole)

3. While

While means during the time that or duration of time.


While I’m away, please keep my house.
She stayed in the waiting room while her husband bought some tickets.

4. As

In time clause as is used:

a. When two short actions occur simultaneously.


I saw him as I left the house.
The boy kicked the ball as it came to him.

b. When two longer actions take place together.


My scores get increased as I study harder.
Her body gets slimmer as she runs a healthy diet method.

c. When an action occurs before the previous one is complete.


As I cooked I ran out of salt.
As she took a bath she got the brilliant idea.

This implies that I ran out of salt before I finished cooking and she got the brilliant idea before she finished bathing.

a. When parallel actions or parallel development take place.


The old lady mumbled as she swept the dirty floor.
As we advertise our business, the orders of our products rise.

5. As Soon As

As soon as is used when something occurs straight away after something else.


She left for work as soon as she ate her breakfast.
As soon as we finish your order, we will send it to you.

6. Till/ until

Till/ until means up to the time that and is used to refer to a time up to a particular event happens or how long a situation continuous. We compare the meaning of till/ until to since; since shows the beginning of a period whereas till/until shows the end point of a period.


I’ll be here until you come back.
He’ll love her till the day he dies.
She kept writing until she heard the blast last night.

7. When

When means at the time that. When is used with simple tenses. You can use when in the following cases:

a. When one action happens at the same time or during another action.


When they were here, we were very busy.
The kind-hearted woman cried when she saw the poor child.

b. When one action follows another.


When you click the play button, the program starts.
The car ran very fast when the young racer stepped on the gas.

8. Whenever

Whenever means anytime.


You can come back here whenever you want.
Whenever you are ready, you can contact me.

9. Since

Since means from the time that. In clauses since is customarily followed by past tenses.


I haven’t met her since she graduated from the college.
The old man hasn’t moved since he sat there.

10. Once

Once which functions as conjunction can mean as soon as/ soon after or when. Once is frequently used to show a condition which must first be met before something else can occur or in short as soon as one thing happens, something else happens.


I’ll post this article on my blog once I finish it.
Once the food is ready, we’ll serve it for the guests.


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Filed under: English Course (Grammar)

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