Adverb Clauses Part Three

In this lesson we’re going to conclude our overview of adverb clauses with words used to introduce clauses that express time relationships. This lesson builds on the previous adverb clauses blogs. If you’re unfamiliar with the basics of adverb clauses, we recommend reading the previous two blog entries before continuing with this one.


After and Before

After and before express the idea that once a certain time has passed or event has occurred, another event will occur. Note that when the meaning of the clause is in the future, the simple present tense of the verb is used, not the future tense.


After he graduates high school, he will go to college.

After he (had) graduated college, he got a job.


She will go to college before she gets a job.

She went to college before she got a job.



When is equivalent to saying “at that time.” You can express a variety of time relationships by varying the tense of the clause, but note that you can’t use a future tense verb in the adverb clause itself.


When I left, he was still working on the project.

When I arrived, he had already left.

When it began to snow, I built a snowman

When I was in Canada, I visited my aunt and uncle.

When I see my teacher tomorrow, I will ask her about my grade.


While and As

These words introduce adverb clauses that have the same meaning as the expression “during that time.”


While I was driving home, it began to snow.

As I was driving home, it began to sleet.


It began to snow and sleet during the time I was driving home. Remember that while can also be used to show direct contrast: While Florida was sunny, Georgia was covered in snow.


By the time

By the time is a way of expressing that one event is completed before another event occurs. Depending on the time expressed in the adverb clause, you can use either a past perfect or future perfect verb in the main clause.


By the time Ellen arrived, we had already left the party. (Simple past adverb clause and past perfect main clause)

By the time Ellen arrives at the party, we will have already left. (Simple present adverb clause and future perfect main clause)



A since adverb clause is equivalent to saying “from that time to the present.” A present perfect verb is used in the main clause that accompanies a since adverb clause. You can also add ever before the adverb clause for additional emphasis.


I haven’t seen my roommate since he left for work this morning.

I’ve known Angela ever since we went to college together.


In addition to its role in time clauses, remember that since can also be used to mean because: Since Sunday is Easter, I have to go to church.



Until introduces adverb clauses that mean “to that time and then no longer.” Native English speakers will frequently shorten this to just till in spoken English (as in the second example). This shortened form is generally not acceptable in formal writing.


John stayed awake until his son came home from the party. (Formal)

John stayed awake till his son got home. (Informal)


As Soon As and Once

These phrases introduce adverb clauses that express the idea that when an event happens, another event happens soon (often immediately) afterward.


As soon as it stops snowing, I will shovel the driveway.

Once it stops snowing, I will clear my driveway.


I will shovel the snow off of my driveway after the snow stops falling. I will do so soon after it stops snowing but not before.


So Long As and As Long As

So long as/as long as is equivalent to saying “during all that time” or “from beginning to end.” These adverb clauses express an all-encompassing time frame that applies to the action(s) expressed in the main clause.


As long as Ellen can knit, she will be happy.

Julie will never work in retail again so long as she lives.


Whenever and Every Time

Use these phrases to help express habitual actions. When the condition in the adverb clause is met, the action in the main clause will occur consistently and without fail.


Whenever I call Angela, we talk for hours.

Every time I visit my old store, I say hello to my former coworkers.


The First Time…

Adverb clauses can express the relative occasion on which you performed or will perform the action expressed in the main clause. This particular type of time clause follows the construction of the [first/second/third/last/next/etc.] time (that).


The first time (that) I visited my girlfriends family, I got lost along the way.

I made sure to get directions the last time (that) I visited her family.

The next time (that) I visit my girlfriend’s family, I will let her drive.