English Grammar Guide

Time clauses and Conjunctions

Time Conjunctions

We can join two sentences using a conjunction. A conjunction is a 'linking' word or phrase. A time conjunction gives us information about when two events happen, relative to each other.

Common time conjunctions are:

  • When

  • While

  • As soon as

  • Until

  • After

  • Before

  • During

When can be used to show that one event is before, or at the same time as another event. When can be used to illustrate a past or future meaning.

  • I studied abroad for a year when I was at university.

  • When she finishes this course, she'll go abroad for a year.

As soon as means that the second event happened, or will happen, immediately after the first.
In the second example below, the verb in the present simple has a future meaning.

  • As soon as I finished lunch, I went out for a walk.

  • I'll go out for a walk as soon as I finish lunch.

Not … until means the same as not … before.

  • I didn't leave home until I got married.

  • I didn't learn to drive a car until I was 21.

After and before can be followed by a subject-verb clause or by a gerund.

  • After I had eaten five ice cream cones, I felt a little sick.

  • Before coming back to Britain, I travelled all over Eastern Europe.

While can be used to show two events happening at the same time.

  • While you're getting lunch ready, I'll wash the car.

  • I studied judo while I was in Japan.

While and During
While and during are both used to show that two things happen at the same time.
While is a conjunction and is used before a subject-verb clause.
During is a preposition and is used before a noun phrase.

  • What should you do during an earthquake?

  • Don't run downstairs while the building is shaking.

  • He arrived while I was eating breakfast.

  • He arrived during breakfast.