Author: British Council | Published on 1 March 2023


Stage 1: Present examples 

Write these sets of sentences on the board. Ask: “What do you notice about these sentences?” (For lower levels use only boxes 1–4.) 

1. Vincent always walks to school. Rebecca has a cup of tea every morning. I never eat fish! I go to the market on Saturdays. 2. We went shopping yesterday. I didn’t see my uncle last year. Habeeb was in Namibia 6 months ago.
3. I will be 10 years old next week! Nandie and I probably won’t go to the party on Saturday. We’ll be on holiday tomorrow!  4. We are doing project work this week. I can’t come now. I’m doing my homework. 
5. Notty and I have been friends for 5 years. I’ve never been to England. Badiri has studied English since 2019. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.  6. While Boile was writing, Johanna was drawing the pictures. When I finish school, I will go to College. Before they go out to play, they always do their homework.

To help learners, you could:

  • Circle the time words in each box.
  • Underline the verbs in each box.
  • Ask more focused questions (e.g. Which verb tense is used in each box?) or write the verb tense above each box. 
  • Ask very specific questions (e.g. Which time words do we often use with past simple? =yesterday, last year, ago. Which time words do we often use with present perfect? =for, since, never, always.) What is different about the examples in box 6? =the time words connect 2 sentences)

Stage 2: Take feedback 

Ask learners to share their feedback on what they have noticed in the example sentences. Common time words which go with specific verb tenses include: 

  1. With present simple – frequency time words: always, often, usually, sometimes, never. Other time words include: every day/week/month/year, on Saturdays, etc.
  2. With past simple: yesterday, 3 days/months/years ago, last week/month/year, in the past, etc.
  3. With future forms: tomorrow, in an hour/ a year, in two weeks, this week/ month/ year, someday, sometime soon, etc.
  4. With present continuous: now, at the moment, these days, today, this week, etc. 
  5. With present perfect: for a week/3 months/years/ages, since 2019, since yesterday/last week, ever, never, always, many times, recently, already, yet, still, etc. 
  6. Time words often used to link 2 sentences are: while, when, whenever, after, before, until, as soon as, the first/last time, etc. 

Stage 3: Use the grammar

a) Give me five!

Learners work in small groups and think of 5 more time words to add to any of the boxes on the board. (Examples: 1. usually, every year, etc. 2. last week, 3 hours ago, etc. 3. tonight, next year, someday, etc. 4. at the moment, these days, etc. 5. many times, recently, already, etc. 6. as soon as, until, after, the first time, etc.) Then they write an example sentence for each one. Take feedback by inviting each group to present 1 or 2 examples, and add them to the boxes on the board. 

b) Me too!

Learners work in small groups. They take it in turns to make a true sentence about themselves using a time word and the right tense, e.g. I don’t go to school on Saturdays. They score 1 point for every time another group member says, ‘Me too!’ 

c) Role play:

Tell learners they are all famous people. Write on the board: 



Famous for:

Early life:

What you have achieved:

What you are doing these days:

Future dreams/ambitions:

Tell them to make notes about each point, use their imaginations and create their fictional character – they can be whoever they want to be. Learners then work in pairs and interview each other about their lives. Encourage them to use some of the time words on the board. When they’ve finished, they can repeat the interview with a new partner. (This gives them extra practice.) Learners could write a short magazine article about one of their partners in a question and answer format and these could be displayed on the walls.