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  ENGLISH GRAMMAR for ESL learners  


Expressing future time after 'when','before', 'after', 'as soon as', 'until'

What is a time clause?
Time clauses are preceded by adverbs or adverb phrases which show that they represent a time.
Examples of these adverbs or adverb phrases are: when, before, after, as soon as, until.

A time clause shows that an event will happen at a certain time. Although they have a subject, verb and object, these clauses simply point to a time, similar to saying "at 7 o'clock".

We use the present tense to talk about future times.
The future tense is used in the main clause.
The present simple tense is used in the time clause.
When two clauses are joined by adverbs of time or adverb phrases, the future form should not be repeated.
  • Tom will turn off the lights when he leaves the office. (Not when he will leave).
  • I will tidy the living-room before I go to bed. (Not before I will go).
  • She will go running after it stops raining. (Not after it will stop raining.)
  • I will not go home until I finish the report. (NOT until I will finish).
  • Jane will call her mother as soon as she arrives at the airport. (Not as soon as she will arrive).

Time clauses with reference to the future can also be introduced by other expressions such as:
once, immediately, the moment, the minute, the day, by the time ...
  • Tony will call the restaurant the moment he gets home.
  • I'll contact you once I receive an estimate.
  • You will be notified the minute your order arrives.
  • It will be dark by the time we arrive home.

The time clause may come before or after the main clause with no change in meaning.
  • The moment I hear the doorbell I will put on my coat.
  • I will put on my coat the moment I hear the doorbell.
  • The day you graduate your mother will be very happy.
  • Your mother will be very happy the day you graduate.

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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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