It has long been recognised that depression and anxiety share a common core of negative affect, but research on similarities and differences between these two emotions is growing. The focus of the current study was on whether the timing of a triggering event can determine whether the dominant emotional reaction is depression or anxiety. It was hypothesised that aversive events in the past would elicit more depression than anxiety, whereas the same aversive events in the future would elicit more anxiety than depression. We created temporally varied versions of vignettes describing aversive events occurring at either time, and asked participants to rate the extent to which the events would elicit feelings of depression or anxiety. Results indicated that adverse past events elicited much higher ratings of anticipated depression and adverse future events elicited much higher ratings of anticipated anxiety. Implications for understanding these two emotions and depressive and anxiety disorders are discussed.