Adverb Clause of Time Definition and Examples

Adverb Clause of Time Definition

An adverb or adverbial clause of time, also known as a time clause, expresses when something happens. A time adverb or subordinating conjunction is usually used to introduce and connect the adverb clause of time to the main clause.

Must Read: 10 Examples of Adverb Clause of Time

Adverb Clause of Time Example: The boy ran away when he saw the dog.

We can divide the whole sentence into the parts below.

Main Clause: The boy ran away
Subordinate Clause: when he saw the dog
Finite verbs: ran and saw

The part ‘when he saw the dog‘ is an adverb clause of time that modifies the verb ran in the main Clause. The word ‘when’ is a time conjunction that means at the time that.)

Adverb Clause of Time Definition and Examples

The following are some time conjunctions that we usually use to begin an adverb clause of time.

  • While
  • As
  • Before
  • After
  • Ago
  • Once
  • By
  • By the time
  • Till
  • Until
  • As soon as
  • Since
  • Hardly…when
  • No sooner…than
  • Scarcely…when
  • The moment that
  • Whenever
  • As long as

We use a comma when the adverb clause of time precedes the main Clause.

  • After she has washed the dishes, she will watch TV.
  • My family went shopping after they had finished work.

Function of Conjunctions Used in Adverb Clauses of Time (Adverb Clause of Time Sentences)


The subordinating conjunction ‘when‘ expresses two actions when one follows the other and two actions occur together.


  • When I press the button, the machine stops. (one action follows the other)
  • When I got to school, he was writing an assignment.

We also used this to denote an action that is interrupted for some reason.

  • We were watching the movie when the light went out.


It means in the time period and is used to express when one action interrupts the other and two actions occur together.


  • While I was studying, he was repairing his bike.
  • While the baby was playing, he fell down.


It means before a pastime. It is used as a conjunction in time clauses to join two actions when one happened before the other.

By the time

This conjunction means not later than the time something happens.

  • The mom will have cooked the meal by the time we come back.


It is used to join two actions.

  • I lost all my money after I had left the office.


Till/until means up to the time when.

  • We will wait there till/until he is ready. (up to the time when he is ready)
  •  I won’t attend his wedding until I am invited.

As soon as

As soon as means the moment that.

  • The professor left the class as soon as the lesson was over.


It is used in time clauses to mean at any time.

  • Come here whenever you want.


The time conjunction ‘by‘ is used to say not later than.

  • You have to return it by tomorrow. (not later than tomorrow)

No sooner…..than= hardly……when

We used these structures when one action happened almost immediately after another action.

  • No sooner had we left the hostel than it began to rain.
  • Hardly did she reach the school when she was called back home.

Sequences of Tenses in Adverb Clause of Time

Future tenses can never be used after time conjunctions when expressing the future; instead of future tenses, use present simple or present perfect.


  • I will give them the money after I get paid. (Not after I will get paid)

When the main clause is in the present or future tense, the verb of the adverb clause of time is in the present form.


  • I sometimes watch a movie before I go to bed.
  • Turn off the TV when you leave.
  • We will be ready before you come here.

If the verb of the main clause is in the past tense, the verb of the adverb time clause is also in the past tense.

  • She had given the doorman a tip before she picked up the parcel.
  • When I went to his home, I took a gift with me.

When a clause begins with ‘since, ever since,’ it should be in simple past or past perfect tense, and the main Clause should be according to the rules of time expression. (perfect or perfect continuous tense)


  • Since he came home from school, he has been watching movies.
  • The postman hasn’t been here since I returned from school.

Note the following pattern of sequence of tenses while making time clauses.

1) Past Perfect before Past Simple
Example: I had led a very stormy life before I got my first job.
2) Past Simple after Past Perfect
Example: I slept well after the exam had finished.
3) Present Perfect since Past Simple
Example: What has she been doing since I last saw her?

Examples of Adverb Clauses of Time

Study the following examples of the adverb clause of time and see how they refer to time in the main Clause.

  • While she was ironing, the baby woke up.
  • I haven’t seen that couple since they got married.
  • Before she went out, she had checked her purse.
  • After I had completed the homework, I slept for three hours.
  • We will leave when we finish our work.
  • She hasn’t called me since she returned to China.
  • As soon as we got out of the car, we entered the building.
  • Try the man before you trust him.
  • Can you call me after the match is over?
  • Once the officer signs this paper, I will send you the books.
  • As I was praying, the ceiling fell down.
  • He had no sooner left the house than his mobile phone rang.
  • Before you leave, bring me some water.
  • We aren’t leaving till we know the truth.

Adverb Phrase of Time vs. Adverb Clause of Time

These examples show the difference between adverb phrases that denote time and adverb clauses of time. Both have the same function, i.e., they tell more about time, but the clause has a subject and predicate, and a phrase is just a group of words that function as an adverb.

  • Adverb Phrase of Time: I will wait till its second appearance.
  • Adverb Clause of Time: I will wait till it appears again.
  • Adverb Phrase of Time: Ringing the bell, all the students entered at once.
  • Adverb Clause of Time: When he rang the bell, all the students entered at once.
  • Adverb Phrase of Time: She had better leave the room before getting soft.
  • Adverb Clause of Time: She had better leave the room before she gets soft.


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