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Learn These Important Adverbs About Time to Improve Your Fluency

Learn and start using these important adverbs to describe time in order to boost your vocabulary and accurately describe when, how soon, or how quickly something will happen.

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Briefly: to do something in a short period of time. If you say that something will be done briefly, it is similar to saying that it will be short.

For example, if the bride and groom speak at a wedding for only 2 or 3 minutes to thank everyone for coming, you can say that the bride and groom briefly thanked everyone.

  • The flight attendants briefly reminded everyone where the emergency exits were.

Urgently: when something needs to happen immediately. This is stronger than “promptly”. Remember that “promptly” means as soon as possible but it might not be now.

For example, if a person is seriously injured and might die soon, they need to get medical help urgently. In this case, “promptly” is not strong enough because it needs to happen now.

  • When the lifeguard saw the shark, he called for everyone to get out of the water urgently.

Promptly: to do something without waiting. If you say that something will be done promptly, it means that you won’t have to wait long for it to happen.

For example, if you say that a waiter at a restaurant came to your table “promptly”, it means that you probably only needed to wait one or two minutes after you sat down before the waiter appeared.

  • Please return my call promptly because this problem needs to be solved.

Shortly: soon. If you say something will happen “shortly”, it means that it will happen soon.

For example, if you an employee at the doctor’s office says: “the doctor will see you shortly” it means the doctor will see you soon.

  • Thank you for booking your reservation at our hotel. You will receive a confirmation email shortly.

Instantaneously: when one thing happens immediately after another. This is the fastest of all of the adverbs in this lesson. If you say that something happened instantaneously, it sounds like it happened one second after another event. It is similar to “immediately” but “instantaneously” sounds even faster and can be used to emphasize how quickly the second event happens after the first one.

For example, if you take a picture with a Polaroid camera, the picture is printed instantaneously, which means that the picture is printed just one or two seconds after you take the picture.

  • If someone touches one of the famous paintings at this museum, an alarm is activated instantaneously.

You may be wondering about the difference between “promptly”, “urgently”, and “shortly”, because these seem the most similar. There are some tips below to differentiate them:

a) Urgently: use this when a situation is serious and something needs to happen right now because if it doesn’t there will be a problem: “I need to find a bathroom urgently (or there will be a big problem!)”

b) Promptly: use this especially when one action follows another action very quickly. In the example above, the waiter coming to the table followed the action of your group sitting down at the table. As another example, if you talk about someone going to bed immediately after arriving home, you can say: “he arrived home about an hour ago and promptly went to bed.”

c) Shortly: use this to mean that something will happen soon compared to now: “the show will begin shortly so you should take your seat.”


  1. When the fire alarm went off, the teachers and staff (urgently/briefly/shortly) led all of the students out of the school. (hint: this is a serious situation)

  2. When the soccer game ended, the crowd (promptly/briefly/instantaneously) started leaving the stadium.

  3. I saw our ex-neighbor at the store and (urgently/shortly/briefly) talked with her.

  4. If you add milk to your coffee, it (promptly/urgently/instantaneously) changes color.

  5. Answering Machine Message: I’m sorry that I’m unavailable to take your call but if you leave a message, I will call you back (instantaneously/shortly/briefly).


  1. Urgently

  2. Promptly

  3. Briefly

  4. Instantaneously

  5. Shortly


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