10 Aug Prepositions of time
I’ve heard a number of incorrect prepositions being used with expressions of time throughout my teaching career. Most of the time, translation is the culprit. Let’s have a look at the different prepositions of time used in English, as well as some general guidelines on when to use which preposition.
in the morning, at dawn/sunrise
at midday/noon, in the afternoon
in the evening, at dusk/sunset, at night
As you can see, some words or phrases use in, others use at. What about on? Choosing the correct preposition might seem confusing at first, but these guidelines should help you figure out which preposition you should use.
Used when talking about specific parts of the day, months, seasons, years, decades, and centuries.
|Parts of the day||in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening
|Decades||in the 70s
in the 80s
in the 90s
|Centuries||in the 13th century
in the 21st century
in the last century
In is also used when talking about how soon something will happen or to say how long something takes.
I should be able to get back to you in two to three days.
She said she’d be here in ten minutes.
We also use the expression in …’s time to say how soon something will happen.
It will be ready in two week’s time.
We’ll see each other again in a month’s time.
In American English, in is also used in negative sentences when talking about periods of time up to the present. In British English, for is used.
I haven’t seen him in years.
He hasn’t cleaned in ages.
Used when talking about specific times, holidays or other parts of the day.
|Specific/clock time||at six o'clock
at the weekend
|Other parts of the day||at dawn/dusk/night
In informal contexts, at is usually left out when asking questions:
What time does the train leave?
When talking about holiday periods, we use at. However, we use on to talk about one day of the holiday:
We won’t be home at Christmas.
What are you doing on Easter Sunday?
When talking about the weekend, British people use at, whereas Americans use on:
What did you do at the weekend?
What did you do on the weekend?
Used when talking about days and dates.
on my birthday
on Christmas Day
|Dates||on January 14th
on the first of March
on the 11th of June
|Days + morning/afternoon/evening||on Wednesday morning
on Friday afternoon
on Sunday evening
We sometimes leave out on in informal contexts:
I’m meeting him Saturday afternoon.
We also use plurals when talking about repeated actions:
We usually do the laundry on Mondays.
We go out for dinner on Fridays.
Expressions without prepositions
Sometimes, we don’t use a preposition at all.
|See you next Wednesday!||Come visit any time.||What did you do this morning?|
|I was sick that week.||We're usually at home every evening.||I hope we'll see each other again one day.|
|We were up all night.||What are we doing the day after tomorrow?||We went shopping the day before yesterday.|
Prepositions are usually left out in questions beginning what/which + expression of time, as well as in short answers which only contain an expression of time:
Which week are you on holiday?
What day is the party?
What time does your train leave? – Six o’clock.
That’s all! Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment or sending a message.