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Ago/Before vs. In…(time)/After

A common mistake non-native English speakers make is confusing time phrases.

1. Ago vs. before

‘Ago’ measures time before now.
‘Before’ measures time before another event. ‘Before’ must have two different events.

AgoBefore
I came to Shanghai 5 years ago.I came to Shanghai 2 months before he did.
He graduated 20 years ago.He graduated one year before I met her.

2. In…time vs. after

‘In…time’ measures time after now.
‘After’ measures time after another event. ‘After’ must have two events.

*’In…time’ can be shortened to ‘in…’.

In…timeAfter
I will change jobs in 3 months time.I changed jobs after he did.
He will go home in 5 minutes.He will go home after he finishes his work.

3. Exercises

1. Answer these questions:
(i) What did you do 2 days ago?
(ii) What are you going to do in 5 hours time?
(iii) What did you do before you ate breakfast today?
(iv) What are you going to do after you retire?

2. Describe what you did/will do on these days:
(i) Today (using ‘ago’ and ‘in…time’)
(ii) Yesterday (using ‘before’ and ‘after’)

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