We get it. Learning English as a second language can be tricky, especially because there are so many quirks that can cause confusion. Luckily, prepositions of time are simple once you get the hang of them.
Prepositions of time are words you use to refer to periods of time. These words are at, in, and on. You’ll recognize these prepositions from when you’ve used them to discuss places, but in this case, we’re talking about how to use them to discuss time.
Keep reading to learn how to use prepositions of time.
Use at to describe times of the day told by the clock, specific timeframes or events, and when referring to the periods of holidays and festivals.
My son goes to bed at 8 pm
People decorate their homes at Christmas
Jerry got too drunk at Christmas dinner last year
Simon has a cup of coffee at 6:30 every day
I start work at 9 am
I woke up at 3:05 this morning
Many people go to church at Easter
This is often the trickiest preposition of time for English learners because there are some exceptions. For example, a native speaker would say at night, but it would be incorrect to say at morning. On the flip side, it would be correct to say at dawn, which takes place in the morning.
Use in to mention months, years, centuries, seasons, general times of day (e.g., in the morning), and long periods of time (e.g., in the future or in the present).
St. David’s Day is in March
We get more mosquitos in the summer
In 2022, Katie married John
My great grandfather was born in the 1800s
It’s always warmer in the afternoon
We get storms in August
The temperature drops in the fall
I’d love to go back in time to live in the past
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I will be getting a dog in the future
In the present day, people cannot live on Pluto
Use on to refer to specific dates, days of the week, weekends, portions of days of the week (e.g., on Saturday morning), and notable days. Here are some examples:
I’d like to have a party on Labor Day
My dad’s birthday is on 16th July
We always have bacon on Christmas morning
It was sunny on Labor Day afternoon
We went shopping on Wednesday
I meet my friends on the weekends
My brother’s birthday is on 18th October
I go to school on weekdays but not on weekends
Once you practice using prepositions of time, you should pick up how to use them fairly easily. However, as we mentioned before, a few anomalies can catch you out.
We recommend listening to how native English speakers use prepositions of time and asking someone you trust to correct you if they hear you using them incorrectly.
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