It is common in both business and general English to talk or write about quantities of time (e.g. a day, a year etc...). Although it is possible to only use simple vocabulary like 'this week' etc..., there are words and phrases that are used when talking about quantities and points in time which will make your English sound more professional.

In this online exercise, we will look at vocabulary in English to talk about different quantities or points in time. Although the focus here is on time phrases used in business, many of these are commonly used in general English.

Click here to go to an exercise on times phrases used when requesting for things to be done.


Exercise: Explaining the time schedules of a job

Read the following conversation between Steve (a manager) and John (a new employee) about the different tasks which John will have to do in his new position as a project analyst and when they have to be done.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Steve:'OK, John. I'm going to explain what you need to do in this position and when. I think it's best if you take notes, so you can look at them later.'

John:'I have a pen and paper ready. Go ahead.'

Steve:'Right, every week we have a team meeting to discuss any issues or changes. Normally, it's on a Wednesday afternoon. In addition, you'll need to arrange a monthly meeting with the clients of your projects. It's just to update them on the progress of the project. You can arrange it whenever you want, but it's normally better to have it in the middle of the month.'

John:'In my last job, we had a meeting with the client every fortnight. Can I do that?'

Steve:'Every two weeks seems excessive. But if the client agrees, I have no problem with it. Also, every quarter you will have to write a formal report on the project's progress. You'll need to include in the report everything that has happened in that three-month period. Try to finish a draft a week before the end of the quarter and we'll both check it to see if there are any mistakes.'

John:'OK.'

Steve:'Also, at the end of the fiscal year, which in the United Kingdom is March, you'll need to complete and send a list of all the costs of the project. Remember, that's all the costs of the project from April of the previous year to March. The list is for accounting and tax purposes, so it needs to be correct. I forgot to mention earlier that in addition, to the quarterly report, you'll have to do an annual report on each project's progress for the client. But the report is not for the fiscal year period, it's for a normal calendar year period, from January to December. I need a copy of the draft of the report by the beginning of January.'

John:'OK.'

Steve:'Plus, you need to give me a daily update on what's happening with your projects. A quick phone call or a short email is enough.'

John:'I'm going to be busy.'

Steve:'Yes, you will be. But there are also periods when it's quieter. For example, throughout July and August there's normally very little to do.'



Quiz: Business English time phrases & vocabulary

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now fill in the blanks with one of these words/phrases in bold. Only use one word/phrase once and write it as it is in the text. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...) and a Spanish translation. In the second, , is where you can listen to the word/phrase and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).


1.

Another way to say 'the start of', is

         

The beginning of:
(adjective) 'the beginning of' is used to say when something happens or should happen. It means 'at the start of'. It can be used for days, weeks, months, years etc... This adjective doesn't specify an actual time/date (e.g. first of June) when something will happen, but specifies a period of time, e.g. 'I need it by the beginning of June', means between the first and sixth of June. This adjective often follows the prepositions 'by' or 'at'. While 'at' is used to indicate when, 'by' means no later than, e.g. 'I need it by the beginning of the week'. In Spanish: "a principios del".

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The beginning of:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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2.

Another way to say 'three months', is

         

Quarter:
(noun) 'quarter' is commonly used in business to mean the four different periods of time in a year. For example, January to March is called the first quarter, April to June is called the second quarter etc... The adjective is 'quarterly' and is commonly used with the nouns report and review, e.g. 'quarterly review'. In Spanish: "trimestre".

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Quarter:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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3.

Another way to say the 'financial year', is

         

Fiscal year:
(noun) 'fiscal year' is the name for the 12 month period that companies use for finance and accounting purposes (to see how they are performing financially). At the beginning of each fiscal year, companies will establish/create a plan for how much money they can spend (a budget) and how much money they hope to receive (revenue). At the end of the financial or fiscal year, they analyse how successful they have been. Most companies use the calendar year (January to December) as their fiscal year period. But for companies in some countries (Britain, Australia, Japan etc...), their fiscal year is often between April and March. In Spanish: "año fiscal".

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Fiscal year:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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4.

Another way to say 'each', is

         

Every:
(adjective) When used to talk about time, 'every' and 'each' have basically the same meaning. But there is a difference between the two, which depends on the quantity of the object. We use 'each' when talking of two or more of something and 'every' for three or more. So, if there are 10 student in a classroom you use 'each/every student needs to collect one copy of the book on my desk'. But you can only use 'each' when talking about somebody's hands, because a person only has two hands, e.g. 'each of his hands were empty'. In Spanish: "cada".

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Every:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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5.

Another way to say 'from the beginning to the end', is

         

Throughout:
(preposition) 'throughout' is similar to 'during'. It means that something happens from the start to the finish of a period of time or an event (a film), e.g. 'It was raining throughout the day' means it didn't stop raining for the whole day. Although 'during' can be used with the same meaning, it is normally used to mean for a part of a period of time or an event (a film). In Spanish: "durante todo/toda".

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Throughout:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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6.

A noun that means an amount or quantity of time, is

         

Period:
(noun) When used about time, 'period' means a specific quantity or amount of time (e.g. a month or a year are different periods of time). It is not normally used to talk about short quantities of time, like a day or a week. You can use the word 'time' with the same meaning as 'period', e.g. 'summer is always a very quiet time/period'. In Spanish: "período/plazo".

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Period:

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7.

Another way to say 'the last part' of a period of time, is

         

The end of:
(adjective) 'the end of' is used to say when something happens or should happen. It means at the end period. It can be used for days, weeks, months, years etc... This adjective doesn't specify an actual time/date (e.g. 6pm) when something will happen, but specifies a period of time, e.g. 'I need it at the end of the day', normally means between 5pm to 8pm. This adjective often follows the prepositions 'by' or 'at'. While 'at' is used to indicate when, 'by' means no later than, e.g. 'I need it by the end of the week'. In Spanish: "el fin de".

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The end of:

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8.

An adjective that means 'yearly', is

         

Annual:
(adjective) 'annual' is a commonly used adjective in business English. It means that something happens only once a year (and normally at the same time). It has the same meaning as 'yearly', but 'annual' sounds more professional. It is often used with the nouns report, meeting, review etc..., e.g. 'the annual review'. In Spanish: "anual".

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Annual:

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9.

When something happens every 30 or 31 days, it happens

         

Monthly:
(adjective) 'monthly' means to do something once each/every month, e.g. 'the monthly report'. You can also do the same to week, year etc... by adding an 'ly' to the end of them, e.g. 'weekly'. In this context it is an adjective, but it can also be an adverb, e.g. 'I go monthly'. In Spanish: "mensual".

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Monthly:

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10.

A different way to say 'two weeks', is

         

Fortnight:
(noun) A 'fortnight' is a common way of saying two weeks in most English-speaking countries. It not commonly used in America (although Americans understand its meaning). The adjective is fortnightly, e.g. 'a fortnightly magazine'. In Spanish: "dos semanas/quincena".

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Fortnight:

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11.

An adjective that means 'every day', is

         

Daily:
(adjective) 'daily' means each/every day and is commonly used in English. It is very often used in front of nouns like update, schedule, delivery etc..., e.g. 'There is a daily delivery of bread to the shop'. In Spanish: "diario".

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Daily:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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12.

A phrase that means between the 'the beginning of' and 'the end of', is

         

The middle of:
(adjective) 'the middle of' is used to say when something happens or should happen. It means the middle of a period of time. It can be used for days, weeks, months, years etc... This adjective doesn't specify an actual time/date (e.g. 1pm) when something will happen, but specifies a period of time, e.g. 'She normally comes here in the middle of April', means between the twelfth to twentieth of April. This adjective often follows the prepositions 'by' or 'in'. While 'in' is used to indicate when, 'by' means no later than, e.g. 'I need it by the middle of the week'. In Spanish: "a mediados de".

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The middle of:

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Practice

Now that you understand the new vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the new words/phrases.