There are many words and expressions to refer to time. You can use these to sequence events and to make stories and anecdotes more interesting.
The present – permanent
Use the present simple tense to refer to permanent situations in the present.
I now live in a small town.
Nowadays I live in a small town.
These days, I don’t have much of a social life.
The present – temporary
Use the present continuous tense to refer to temporary situations in the present.
At present / At the moment I’m living in a small town.
For the time being I’m living in a small town, but I hope to move soon.
Talking about a period of time in the past
My mother started work as a nurse in the 1960s.
In those days she lived in London.
Back then nurses were badly paid.
At that time, nurses lived in special accommodation.
Talking about a single event in the past
At one time she lost her door key and had to stay in a hotel.
On one occasion she nursed the son of a famous politician.
Sequencing events in the past
There are many ways to sequence events in the past. Here are some of the more common ones.
After (in the middle of a sentence)
Afterwards / After that / After a while (at the beginning of a sentence)
Then / Before (in the middle or at the beginning of a sentence)
Before that / Previously / Until then (At the beginning of a sentence)
By the time (in the middle of a sentence followed by a past perfect tense)
By then / by that time (at the beginning of a sentence)
I went shopping after I finished work.
I worked all day in the office. Afterwards / After that, I went shopping.
I went shopping. After a while, I got bored.
I worked before I went shopping.
I went shopping at 6pm. Before that / Previously / Until then I had worked all day in the office.
I worked all day, then I went shopping.
I was desperate to go shopping by the time I had finished work.
I worked until 6pm. By then / By that time, I was glad for the opportunity to go shopping.
Other expressions to refer to the next event in a story
At that moment / Suddenly
At the same time
Simultaneously (a more formal way of saying meanwhile / at the same time)
I worked and then went shopping. Later on I met some friends for pizza.
I waited for a while in the restaurant. Before long, the waiter came up and asked me…
At that moment / Suddenly, I heard the door slam.
Meanwhile / At the same time / Simultaneously my phone started to ring.
People who are no longer “around”
An ex-president = no longer the president: “The ex-president of France is still influential.”
A previous / former boss: “A previous boss taught me how to make presentations.”
“My former boss now works for a different company.”
My late wife = my wife who has died: “My late wife painted watercolours.”
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