by Liz Walter
We all need to talk about when things happened or when things will happen. There are lots of ways of doing this and learners often make mistakes with some of the most basic ones.
He worked there for many years.
He’s been working there since 2018.
We use last to talk about a period before the present one and next to talk about a period after the present one. Be careful when you use next with a day of the week, as there is potential for confusion. If it is Wednesday now, and you talk about ‘next Friday’, you should specify whether you mean the Friday in two days’ time or in nine days’ time. If it is nine days, we might say a week on Friday instead:
I saw her last week.
I’m going to see her next week.
My appointment is a week on Thursday.
We often use before and after to talk about time periods. For instance, we say the day before yesterday and the day after tomorrow. Similarly, we might say the week before last or the year after next.
To talk about a time that is far enough in the past for things to be quite different from today, we use phrases like in those days, back then, or in the old days. Slightly more informally, we might say back in the day, especially to introduce a pleasant memory:
In those days the city was much smaller than it is now.
Back in the day, we used to play football after work.
Nowadays, most people have smartphones.
Dental treatment is much better these days.
Our committee has made some progress in the recent past.
We know that Mars was very different in the distant past.
We expect to see more building work in the near future.
Have you been abroad recently/lately?
I visited Paul the other day.
They’ve had that sofa since the year dot.
I’ve known Emily for donkey’s years.
I hope these words and phrases are useful and that you will be able to use them in the near future!