Time and sequence

When and as soon as

I’ll phone my uncle when I get home. / As soon as I get home I’ll phone my uncle.
When you’ve finished you can go home. / You can go home as soon as you’ve finished.
Note: The meaning is the same, but as soon as suggests it is more immediate. Note also that both items can be followed by the present tense or the present perfect (but not will).

Two things happening at the same times

Pat wrote some letters while I cooked the dinner, (two actions in the same period of time)
The accident happened while I was on my way to work. (Here there is a longer action ‘on my way to work’ and a shorter action ‘the accident’. We can also use when or as here.)

I saw him (just) as I came out of the office. (For two very short actions we use as (not while), and we often use just as to emphasise that these two short actions happened at exactly the same moment: He opened the door just as I touched the handle.)

One thing after another

We met the others in the cafe, and then we went to the match.
I finished my homework, after that I played a couple of computer games.
After my visit to New York, I decided to have a rest.
We had something to eat before we went out.
Note: We can also follow before and after with an -ing form:
After visiting New York, I … We had something to eat before going out.

A sequence of actions

We had a great holiday. First of all we spent a few days in St. Moritz. Then / After that we drove down to the Italian Riviera and stayed in Portofino for a week. Finally, we went back to Switzerland and visited some old friends in Lucerne.

• If one action happens soon after the other, we often use afterwards in place of after (that): First of all we met the others for a meal, and afterwards we went to the disco.
• If you want to say that something happened after a lot of time and/or a lot of problems, you can use eventually or in the end.
We took several wrong turnings and the traffic was awful, but eventually we got there.

A sequence of reasons

There are different combinations of words and phrases we can use here:

SON: Why can’t we go away this weekend?
DAD: First(ly) because I’m busy this weekend. Second(ly) you’ve got a lot of school work to do. And third(ly) we’re planning to go away next weekend.

• We can also start with the phrases to begin with / to start with.
• In spoken English we can start with for one thing, followed by and for another (thing).
• For the second or final reason,we sometimes use (and) besides or anyway (infml):
We can’t go to that club because it’s too far. And besides, I’m not a member.