'Once' in a while, you may encounter the word 'once.' In this lesson, we will discover more about this word and its uses.

How to Use "Once" in English?

'Once' can act as both an adverb and a conjunction. In this lesson, we will discuss how to learn and use it.

Functions of 'Once'

'Once' as an Adverb

One of the main functions of 'once' is to be an adverb. Below, we are going to learn about the kinds of adverbs it can be:


'Once' as an Adverb of Frequency

'Once' can be an adverb of frequency:

  • It is used to state that something will happen only on one occasion:

I've only seen this movie once.

They've been to this café once before.

  • When we want to indicate that something was in a way at some time in the past, but not anymore:

She was once a famous actress.

Here, it means she no longer is.

I was once an energetic girl.

Position in a Sentence

Since 'once' is an adverb here, we mainly put it after verbs or other adverbs to modify them. Look at the following examples:

She treated me with kindness once.

He was once a remarkable dancer.

'Once' as a Conjunction

Another function of 'once' is to be a conjunction. Let us see the kind of conjunction it is:


'Once' as a Subordinating Conjunction

'Once' is a subordinating conjunction used to indicate that as soon as something happens, another thing happens. It connects the subordinate clause to the main one. Look:

I called the others once dinner was ready.

Here, it is used to state that as soon as dinner was ready, she/he did what she did.

The Swifts rang the door bell once we closed it.

Position in a Sentence

'Once' as a conjunction can be put at the beginning of the subordinate clause, or between the two clauses. Look:

Once the cake is ready, pour tea in the cups.

She was forced to apologize once her brother spilled the beans.


Please note that we must always put a comma between the two clauses when we are using 'once' at the beginning of the sentence.

Idioms with 'Once'

'Once' is one of the words with which we have many idioms. Let us see what we have in this section:

  • At once: This expression has two meanings. One is to show some things happen at the same time and the other is to show that something must be done immediately.

Come here at once.

Here, the sentence is indicating that the particular person must do the action right away.

All the guests started talking at once.

Here, the sentence indicates that multiple people did something at the same time.

  • For once: When we want to signify that something happens that does not usually happen, we use this idiom.

For once, she got on the right train.

For once, we were all in agreement with one another.

  • Just this once: This idiom is used when we want to indicate that something is only happening on this one specific occasion. Take a look:

Just this once, let me stay home and enjoy my free time alone.

She believes that her mother would accept her idea, just this once.

  • Once again: When we want to indicate that something has happened before and is being repeated again. Look:

Your lie has been revealed once again, doctor.

She will be living a glorious life, once again.

  • Once more: This expression also has two meanings. One is 'one more time' and the other is to specify that something has happened again:

Although I've been to Australia before, I'd like to go there once more.

Despite her terrible mistreatment, she eased my pain once more the other night.

  • Once or twice: This one is used to talk about something that has happened a few times.

She has texted me once or twice.

The reverend and his friend has been to this church once or twice.

  • Every once in a while: This one means 'sometimes':

I watch some episodes of Friends every once in a while.

Every once in a while, she meets her colleagues at a club downtown.

  • Once and for all: When we want to state that finally something will be solved, we use this expression:

Remove this fool from our group once and for all.

Hang this monstrous creature who has cursed our city once and for all.

  • Once in a lifetime: Something that is probable to happen once in someone's life:

These opportunities come once in a life time.

Friends such as her are found once in a life time.


It might be useful to know that we have another idiom with 'once' that is specific to British people. Take a look below:

  • The once: It is used to indicate that something has happened only once:

They have played poker the once and they really enjoyed it.


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