There are many words you can use to refer to time. You can say "five years ago" or "ten minutes earlier." In today's post, we will discuss how to use words like "ago" and "earlier."

Ago, backbefore, and earlier are adverbs you can use to refer to past times.

They have similar uses. There are just some differences in how they are used.


You use ago to refer to a past time from the present time. For example, if an action happened "three days ago," three days have passed since it happened.


• The meeting started five minutes ago.
• Jenny's father died 15 years ago.
• My husband and I met 20 years ago, when we were at university.


You use back in the same way. It is also used to refer to a past time from the present time. It is more informal than ago.


• She moved to California about three years back.
• John died in car accident a while back.
• I sent you the package two months back.


You use before to refer to a past time from another time in the past.


• I missed the bus! I arrived at 8 pm, but the bus had left five minutes before. (The bus left at 7:55pm.)
• She got married last June, but she had been engaged to someone else six months before.


You also use earlier in the same way. It's a little more formal than before.


• I passed by your office earlier. I was at your building for a meeting.
• He worked for The New York Times five years earlier.
• She arrived at the station at 6:30 am, but the train had left 10 minutes earlier.

Practice using these words. Create your own sentences!

You can also practice using them with our online English teachers. Sign up for online English lessons with Learntalk.

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