Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher we answer a question from Phu in Vietnam.
When do we use “Sometimes”, “Sometime” and “Some time?” What is the difference between them?
Thank you for writing to us. These words may look mostly the same. But they actually have different meanings and uses.
Let us begin with “sometimes.” It is the simplest of the three because it only has one meaning. It means “at certain times.” “Sometimes” is an adverb. So, it affects the meaning of the main verb in a statement.
Here's an example using “sometimes.”
The children sometimes take their dog to the park to play.
Now, let us move on to “sometime.” This word can be an adverb or an adjective. As an adverb, it means “at an unspecified or unknown time in the past or future.” Look at these examples:
The holiday party will be sometime in December.
Thieves stole my bicycle sometime last night.
As an adjective, you can use “sometime” to talk about what someone was in the past. It can also be used to describe what someone sometimes does in the present. Here is an example:
Singer Barbra Streisand is a sometime screenwriter and director.
You may hear “sometime” to describe a relationship with a friend or lover:
Police questioned the victim’s sometime lover about the events of the crime.
But in spoken American English, “sometime” is most often used as an adverb.
Finally, “some” and “time” can be separated. The two words can act as an adjective and a noun. Although this expression can mean any length of time, it usually means “a long time,” as in this example:
For some time, auto makers have worked to make cars safer.
What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
And that’s Ask a Teacher. Thank you for spending some time with us today!
I’m Jill Robbins.
Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English. _ was the editor.
Words in This Story
certain – adj. used to refer to something or someone that is not named specifically
unspecified – adj. not named or mentioned
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