Using time markers

  • We use firstly / secondly / thirdly / finally, etc. to put a series of events in order:
    • There are three things you need to do. Firstly, you need to do X. Secondly, you need to do Y. Finally, you need to do Z.
  • We can use first (or first of all) instead of firstly:
    • First (of all), you need to do X.
  • We use at first to describe what was true at the beginning, before it changed later:
    • At first, there were only a few people. But more and more people arrived during the day.
  • We can use first between the subject and verb to describe the beginning of a process or the first time something happened:
    • I first met her when we were students, but we’ve met many times since then.
  • We use at the end to describe the last part of an event:
    • At the end (of the party), everyone went home.
  • We use in the end to describe the final (and perhaps unexpected) results:
    • We were really worried about his illness, but in the end he made a full recovery.
  • After while, we need a clause (subject + verb):
    • While we were at the meeting, I checked my emails.
  • It’s also possible to have an -ing clause after while:
    • While waiting, I checked my emails (= While I was waiting...).
  • After during, we need a noun phrase:
    • During the meeting, I checked my emails.
  • We usually use meanwhile to connect two separate sentences:
    • He gave a really boring presentation at the meeting. Meanwhile, I checked my emails.

Read the information. Then choose the correct words or phrases to complete the text.

When the robbery of a local museum was reported, nobody paid it much attention. , it was thought that nothing valuable was missing. However, it was later discovered that some valuable coins were missing.

a recent press conference, an expert was asked what the thieves might do with the coins. She suggested three possibilities: , the thieves might try to sell the coins to a collector. This was considered to be rather unlikely, as it would be easy to find the coins. , they might melt the coins and sell the gold from them. This was also thought to be unlikely, as the gold would be worth a lot less than the coins themselves. , the coins might be sent abroad for sale in another country. This was seen as the most likely case.

, the police have released a statement, announcing that they have a good idea who the thieves are. ‘We are confident that we will catch them , even if it takes months, and we will return the coins to the museum.’ the statement said.


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