Adverbs of time
Adverbs of time are those words that tell us when something happens. They are invariable which means they do not change (unlike verbs or adjectives) so this makes it easier to learn them. Let’s have a look at some sentences and try to spot them.
- Non ho ancora fatto la spesa.
I haven’t done the groceries yet.
- Loro vanno sempre al mare d’estate.
They always go to the beach in the summer.
- Ho appena visto tua mamma.
I’ve just seen your mum.
Always vs. Never
These two adverbs are very common and are opposites:
- Sempre: always
- Mai: never
One important thing to remember is that both sempre and mai go after the verb in the present tense, unlike in English. However, they go between the auxiliary verb essere or stare and the past participle with the passato prossimo (like io ho mangiato, lui ha visto). Also, mai is usually preceded by another negative word: non. Have a look at the examples below and pay attention to what we just said:
- Noi mangiamo sempre prima delle 20.
We always eat before 8pm.
- Laura non viene mai in vacanza con noi.
Laura never comes on holiday with us.
- Non sono mai andata in Russia.
I’ve never been to Russia.
- Loro ci hanno sempre detto la verità.
They’ve always told us the truth.
Still vs. already
These two adverbs of time are also opposites.
- Ancora: still
- Non…ancora: not…yet
- Già: already
Ancora is usually used to talk about things that are still happening, so in this case, we use it with the present tense. We can also use ancora with the passato prossimo and it goes between the auxiliary verb essere or stare and the past participle. In this case, it is used for something that hasn’t happened yet and this is why it is proceeded by the negative word non. Già is also used with the passato prossimo. It is used in positive sentences for something that has already happened. Here’s a quick recap:
- Ancora: for something that is still happening (present tense)
- Non…ancora: for something that hasn’t happened yet (passato prossimo)
- Già: for something that has already happened (passato prossimo)
As you can probably tell, they behave very similarly to their English equivalents. Here are some examples:
- Io ho ancora fame.
I’m still hungry.
- Noi non abbiamo ancora mangiato.
We haven’t eaten yet.
- Sei già stata in Spagna?
Have you already been to Spain?
Practice with QuizletHere's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.
And there there’s appena which literally means “just”, as in “a very short time ago”.
- Appena: just
It is used with the passato prossimo since it refers to something that has just happened. Let’s have a look at some sentences:
- Ho appena finito di lavorare.
I’ve just finished working.
- Hanno appena chiuso.
They’ve just closed.
- Mia sorella è appena andata via.
My sister has just left.