A Quick Guide to Prepositions of Time

Image courtesy of Christopher Allen via Flickr (CC 2.0)


A preposition is a relationship word which generally shows the location of something (in the hall), the time when something happens (at midnight), the way something is done (by train), and so on.


Learning them can be a little bit tricky, as there aren’t always rules to help you choose the correct one. To make matters worse, some prepositions can have many different uses. For example, according to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, the preposition on has eighteen different functions.


In this article, we’ll consider how to use three common prepositions of time: at, on, in.


When to use at

Use at when referring to a specific time that is relatively short.


clock times at 7 o’clock | at 6:30 pm
holiday periods at Christmas | at Easter
specific times of the day at noon | at midnight
meal times  at lunchtime | at dinner time


Of course, there are situations when at is used to show longer periods of time ‒ for instance, we say at night, or at the weekend.


When to use on

Use on when referring to days and dates in general.


days of the week on Monday | on Thursday
dates on the 15th of July | on 22nd February
special days on New Year’s Day | on Republic Day | on her birthday
parts of specific days on Friday morning | on Sunday night


When to use in

Use in when referring to longer periods of time.


parts of a day in the morning | in the afternoon | in the evening
seasons in winter | in autumn
months in February | in July
years in 1977 | in 2015
decades in the seventies | in the 1980s
centuries in the fifteenth century | in the twenty first century


Remember, we do not use a preposition before certain expressions of time, such as last, next, every, each, or this. For example, we say:

I saw that film last Saturday. (NOT I saw that film on last Saturday.)

I play tennis every Sunday. (NOT I play tennis on every Sunday.)






Form : adjective
Meaning : difficult to do
Example : Some people can find operating smartphones a bit tricky.



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