Google Research

TimeDial: Temporal Commonsense Reasoning in Dialog

Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Association for Computational Linguistics (2021)


Everyday conversations require understanding everyday events, which in turn, requires understanding temporal commonsense concepts interwoven with those events. Despite recent progress with massive pre-trained language models (LMs) such as T5 and GPT-3, their capability of temporal reasoning in dialogs remains largely under-explored. In this paper, we present the first study to investigate pre-trained LMs for their temporal reasoning capabilities in dialogs by introducing a new task and a crowd-sourced English challenge set, TimeDial. We formulate TimeDial as a multiple choice cloze task with over 1.1K carefully curated dialogs. Empirical results demonstrate that even the best performing models struggle on this task compared to humans, with 23 absolute points of gap in accuracy. Furthermore, our analysis reveals that the models fail to reason about dialog context correctly; instead, they rely on shallow cues based on existing temporal patterns in context, motivating future research for modeling temporal concepts in text and robust contextual reasoning about them. The dataset is publicly available at

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