Sequence Adverbs

Let's suppose that you want to talk about when something happened or will happen, or that you want to tell someone how to do something that must be done in steps and each of those steps should be done in a specific order. In either of these two situations, you must use signal words to help the person you are talking to understand the order of the process. These signal words are called adverbials of time and sequence. They are also sometimes referred to as time-order signal words.

Adverbials of time and sequence help us understand the time relationship between sentences and ideas. Adverbials of time and sequence fall into two groups. The first group consists of time expressions of more than one word. Time expressions of more than one word generally introduce a sentence and are followed by a comma. Here's a list of the most common ones:

by + time By seven o'clock, the theater was full.
at + time At around three o'clock, the band walks through the door.
after + time After five o'clock, the students go home.
before + time They all arrived before noon.
after + noun After about twenty minutes, I had to see her again.
before + noun Before the movie, we went out for dinner.
during + noun During the movie, the people kept talking.

The second group of adverbial expressions consist of one-word expressions of sequesnce. These generally introduce a sentence and are followed by a comma. Here is a list of the most common:

firstfirst of allsecond
thirdafterafter that
thennextfinally

Time signal words are useful in many types of narratives. Below are four paragraphs using time signal words. Read the paragraphs and try to guess what they are talking about. The time signal words have been underlined.

1. They're easy to make! First, put some of your favorite ice cream in a bowl. Then, pour two tablespoons of chocolate syrup on the ice cream. Next, cover the ice cream and chocolate with whipped cream. Finally, sprinkle chopped nuts on the whipped cream and top it off with a cherry.

2. To get there go straight two blocks and then turn right. Follow that street for two blocks. Look for a tall gray building on the left. Then, turn left and go three more blocks and it will be the blue house on the southwest corner.

3. The first thing you see is a big map on the wall in front of you. Then, if you look to the right, you will see a large sofa. Then, as you look around the room you will notice a cute little plastic chair in the far corner.

4. I usually get up at around 7a.m. The first thing I do after getting up is drink a cup of coffee. While I'm drinking my coffee, I check my e-mail. Then, I eat breakfast. After breakfast, I take a shower and get dressed.