What is a Temporal Word?

What is a Temporal Word?
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  • 0:00 Understanding Temporal Words
  • 2:48 Common Temporal Words
  • 3:45 Temporal Prepositions
  • 4:50 More About Temporal Phrases
  • 5:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Temporal words are connectors that help to connect ideas, sentences and stories. In this lesson, you will learn about some temporal words and how to use them to make your sentences better.

Understanding Temporal Words

Let's read a very short story about a spoiled prince:

'There was a spoiled prince. He didn't want to share. A storm hit the kingdom. The town's people worked together to save each other, except for the prince. He sat in the castle behind a big wall. The wall holding back the water broke! The castle started to flood. The prince was in trouble. The town's people didn't want to save the prince. They realized that even though the prince didn't want to share, the right thing to do was to share their boats. The town's people went to save the prince when the last bit of wall was washed away! The town's people pulled the prince from the water. The prince was saved! The prince realized it was good to share. He shared whatever he had.'

What did you think of this story? It might have been easy enough to understand, but did it feel like something was missing? Let's see how different the story is when we add something called temporal words, or transitional words related to time. We'll put these new words in italics.

'Once upon a time, there was a spoiled prince. He didn't want to share. Suddenly, a storm hit the kingdom. During the storm, the town's people worked together to save each other. Except for the prince. He sat in the castle behind a big wall. At that moment, the wall holding back the water broke! The castle started to flood. Now the prince was in trouble. At first, the town's people didn't want to save the prince. Eventually, they realized that even though the prince didn't want to share, the right thing to do was to share their boats. No sooner had the town's people gone to save the prince when the last bit of wall was washed away! The town's people pulled the prince from the water just in time. The prince was saved! Afterwards, the prince realized it was good to share. He shared whatever he had from then on.'

Some people argue that temporal words can refer to all transitions; when adding information, clarifying, comparing, location, cause and effect, emphasis, and conclusion. That is a very large amount of words!

Temporal words generally refer to time-related transitions. Temporal words can be singular words, such as 'tomorrow;' prepositions, such as 'for;' or phrases, such as 'before long.' Without temporal words, stories would not move along as well. While temporal words are not often used in speech, they are very important for writing.

Even if we limit temporal words to time-related temporal words, they still account for a lot of words. What's important is how to use them. Without temporal words, written language would not flow. Usually when a temporal phrase starts a sentence, we write a comma to make the sentence flow even better.

Which sounds better to you? 'All of a sudden, there was a tornado!' or 'There was a tornado all of a sudden!'

Common Temporal Words

Let's look over a list of common temporal words:

  • today
  • tomorrow
  • yesterday
  • often
  • now
  • suddenly
  • after
  • soon
  • before
  • then
  • immediately
  • between
  • by
  • during
  • earlier
  • eventually
  • except
  • finally
  • following
  • for
  • meanwhile
  • after
  • afterward(s)

Here are some more examples of temporal words and phrases used in sentences:

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