Prepositions of Time

Prepositions of Time: Several prepositions are used to denote time, but the usual prepositions of time are in, on, and at. Prepositions of time answer the question when. They describe indefinite time, periods of time, and duration of time and events.
Uses of Prepositions of Time

Preposition of Time in, on and at

Uses of Preposition AT

We use the preposition at to describe the time of day, i.e. clock time, meal time such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.
Short holidays such as the weekend etc.
An event that is traditionally celebrated on specific dates, i.e. Christmas, Easter, etc.
at 10 o’clock
at 9.30
at midnight
at night/morning (without the)
at dawn
at present
at weekends/the weekend
at sixteen (the age)
She leaves the office at 5 am.
We will arrange a meeting at lunchtime.
We usually watch a movie at the weekend (at the weekend more common in the UK).
She started work at 20 (years of age).
We use the preposition “at” before Christmas, but we use the preposition “on” before Christmas day.
Christian greet one another at Christmas.
Christian greet one another on Christmas day.
We use ‘at‘ when we talk about the night, morning, afternoon, evening, etc. in general (each night/morning) and use ‘in’ when we talk about any particular night or morning (special task assigns to these times that we don’t usually do at that time).
  • I usually take a sleeping tablet in the night. (use ‘the‘ before particular)
  • Don’t go out at night anymore. (means any night or when it is night)
  • She cooked early at morning.    (means any morning)

Prepositions of Time with Some Common Expression

Use ‘at’ with the following time expression. All these short periods denote a point of time.
at the wedding
at the moment (means now)
at that time
at the same time
at bedtime
at break time
at once (several things together)
With points of times when something starts or stops.
at the beginning
at the end of the day/week/year etc. (used when something ends)
  • I think you are busy at the moment/at present.
  • We like to have a cold drink at bedtime.
  • They all arrived at the same time.
  • We pay the hostel fee at the beginning of the month.
All the students were awarded at the end of the exam. (They were rewarded when the exam finished)

Uses of Preposition IN

The preposition in is used to describe nonspecific time of a day, of a month, of a year, or of a season. These denote a longer time.
In winter, in March, in 2020, in the past, in the future, centuries, decades, etc.
  • They are going to London in February.
  • She started working here in2010.
  • We enjoy gardening in summer.
  • I like the colour of the trees in the autumn.
We use ‘inwith particular parts of a day. But there must be a definite article before that specific part of a day; otherwise preposition ‘at is used before them.
e.g. in the morning
in the evening
in the afternoon
  • We play cards in the afternoon.
  • I go to work early in the morning.
  • She isn’t working in the evening.
We use in before the phrase ‘the middle of month/year etc.
I think they are married in the middle of 2012.
We use the preposition “inwith a short period of time when something happened or will happen.
I will be back in a moment.
We use the preposition “inbefore a time period to say how long it takes to do an activity also means after or specific time in the future.
  • He completed his work in thirty minutes.
  • We will get there in one week.
  • In a few minutes, the aeroplane will be arriving at London Airport. (in a few minutes from now)
  • We will leave in two days. (after two days)
To describe the final result of something we use in the end, which means finally.

Uses of Preposition ON

Use on before days of the week and dates to describe when something happened.

  • My exam will be finished on Friday.
  • The cricket world cup began on23 April.
  • I’ll meet him again on Tuesday.
  • Our examination will start on 17 May.
When we want to regularly show something that happens on one specific day, we add “s” to that day.
  • We don’t work on Sundays.
  • The shop is closed on Mondays.
Use on before a particular or part of a specific day
  • We arranged a party on Easter Monday.
  • We will be at your workplace on Sunday morning.
  • He gave her this phone on her birthday.
  • British conquered India on this day about 300 years ago.
We do not use the prepositions in, on, or at before next, last, this, that, every, some, each, and before the adverb phrases yesterday, tomorrow, today, tonight, later, the day after tomorrow, the day before yesterday
  • I will meet your parents next week.
  • They arrived last Friday.
  • We may visit London this month.
  • We play together every Sunday. 
But if the article ‘the‘ comes before next, last, this, etc., we can use the prepositions in/on before the article.
  • They get married in the next week.
  • We have spent a lot of money in the last few weeks.
Note: last Sunday but on Sunday last 

Uses of Other Prepositions of Time 

Other commonly used prepositions of time are
  • by
  • for
  • since
  • from
  • till
  • until
  • before
  • during
  • within 

Use of the Preposition “By”

We use by (means at or before not later than) to talk about a specific point of time in the future before which an activity must be completed.
  • They had promised to be back by seven o’clock.
  • We studied by night and slept by day. (by means during)
  • You must present here by8 am tomorrow.

Use of the Preposition Until/till

The preposition until is used to describe a continued action up to a specific time.
  • I will continue my study until you sleep.
  • She has to be at home until we arrive. (she can’t leave home before our arrival)
  • Till is used instead of until in informal English. 

Use of the Preposition during/in

We use ‘during/into say in the middle (after an action is started and before the end of that action).
She has been here during the holiday.

Uses of the Preposition “Since”

Use since to describe the starting point of action until now. It indicates continuity and is always used with perfect tenses.
  • We have been independent since1947.
  • She has been working here since2010.

Uses of the Preposition “For”

The preposition for used to describe the duration of time of an action.
  • We lived in this apartment for six months.
  • They worked for a long time.

Uses of the Preposition “Within”

We use within to mean no further than a period of time.
  • He can complete this work within one hour. (Before the completion of one hour)
  • I must learn this within a month.

Uses of the Preposition “From”

We use from to refers to the starting point of action.

I will wait for him from two to three.

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