A Quick Guide to Prepositions of Time
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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.)
|Meaning||:||difficult to do|
|Example||:||Some people can find operating smartphones a bit tricky.|