How to Use Prepositions of Time in English?

preposition of time
Where, When, and How Long. Unveiling the nuanced dance of moments with prepositions.

How to Use Prepositions of Time in English

Prepositions of time in the English language serve as crucial markers, delineating temporal relationships and specifying when an action occurs. These seemingly small words—such as “in,” “on,” and “at”—hold significant weight in conveying precise temporal information.

Understanding their nuanced usage can immensely enhance one’s language proficiency and communication skills. Here, we delve into the intricate usage of prepositions of time, unlocking their complexities and harnessing their power for effective expression.

Understanding Basic Prepositions of Time

Definition and Role in English Language

Prepositions of time function as connectors, establishing relationships between an event and its temporal context. They elucidate when an action transpires within the realm of time.

Examples of Basic Prepositions (In, On, At)

1. In: Specific Time Periods

The preposition “in” denotes time frames encompassing durations, broader time units, and extended periods.

2. On: Days and Dates

“On” signifies specific days, dates, and events pinpointed on a calendar or within a timeline.

3. At: Specific Times

“At” is employed to denote precise moments or times during the day.

Usage of “In” as a Preposition of Time

Duration and General Time Frames

“In” is extensively used to denote durations, general time frames, and periods, providing a broader context.

Seasons and Months

This preposition is instrumental in referring to seasons, months, and extended time periods.

Years and Centuries

The usage of “in” extends to encompassing years, centuries, and historical eras.

Expressions with “In”

Various idiomatic expressions utilize “in” to signify particular time frames or circumstances.

Exploring “On” as a Preposition of Time

Days of the Week

The preposition “on” is employed when referring to specific days within a week, emphasizing a particular point in time.

Specific Dates and Special Occasions

It denotes precise calendar dates, anniversaries, and significant events marked on a specific date.

Events and Holidays

“On” is frequently used to express events, festivals, and holidays occurring on specific dates or within a defined time frame.

Understanding the Application of “At” in Prepositions of Time

Precise Times

“At” is utilized for exact moments, specific hours, or particular times during the day.

Meals and Specific Times of the Day

This preposition indicates meal times or other routine activities at specific times of the day.

Expressions with “At”

Idiomatic expressions and specific phrases make use of “at” to denote particular timings or events.

prepositions of time
Where, When, and How Long. Unveiling the nuanced dance of moments with prepositions.

Complex Time Structures with Prepositions

Mixed Prepositions in Time Expressions

Certain time expressions combine multiple prepositions to convey complex temporal relationships.

Time Prepositions in Relation to Other Elements

Understanding how prepositions interact with adverbs, clauses, and other linguistic elements is crucial for precise communication.

Idiomatic Expressions with Time Prepositions

Idiomatic expressions incorporating prepositions add color and depth to language usage, allowing for more vivid and nuanced communication. Here are some common idiomatic expressions using time prepositions:

  1. In the nick of time: Just in time, at the last possible moment.
  2. Once in a blue moon: Rarely, very infrequently; not often.
  3. At the eleventh hour: At the last moment, right before the deadline or when something is about to happen.
  4. In the long run: Eventually, over a period of time; considering the future outcome.
  5. At the drop of a hat: Immediately, without any hesitation or delay.
  6. For donkey’s years: For a very long time; an extended period.
  7. At the crack of dawn: Very early in the morning, at sunrise.
  8. In the blink of an eye: Extremely quickly; almost instantaneously.
  9. Once upon a time: Used to begin a fairy tale or story, indicating the past.
  10. At the stroke of midnight: Precisely at 12 o’clock at night.
  11. In the meantime: Meanwhile, during the time between two events.
  12. At the drop of a dime: Immediately or instantly, often referring to quick reactions.
  13. Time after time: Repeatedly, on multiple occasions.
  14. In the dead of night: In the middle of the night, usually when it’s very quiet and dark.
  15. At the crack of dawn: At the first light of daybreak, very early in the morning.

Learning and incorporating these idiomatic expressions into everyday speech can greatly enhance language fluency and enrich conversations, adding a touch of vividness and cultural depth to communication.

Common Mistakes and Challenges

Confusion between “In,” “On,” and “At”

Addressing the common errors and misconceptions while using these prepositions for time references.

Errors in Using Prepositions with Certain Time References

Highlighting specific scenarios where incorrect usage leads to confusion or misinterpretation.

Strategies to Overcome Confusion

Providing practical tips and strategies to overcome challenges in mastering prepositions of time.

Practice Exercises and Examples

Engaging exercises and contextual examples aid in solidifying understanding and practical application.

Prepositions of Time with Specific Time Frames

Explanation of using prepositions of time with specific time frames When talking about specific time frames, such as days, months, seasons, or holidays, it is important to use the appropriate preposition of time to convey the correct meaning.

Examples of using prepositions of time with specific time frames correctly

Days of the week:

  • I have an appointment on Monday.
  • We usually go out on Fridays.
  • He was born on a Wednesday.

Months of the year:

  • Our vacation is in July.
  • She started working here in September.
  • Christmas is in December.


  • I love to ski in the winter.
  • We always go to the beach in the summer.
  • The trees turn beautiful colors in the fall.


  • We celebrate Thanksgiving in November.
  • They always visit us during Easter.
  • Do you have plans for New Year’s Eve?

Prepositions of Time with Indefinite Time Frames

Explanation of using prepositions of time with indefinite time frames:

Prepositions of time are also used to indicate indefinite time frames, meaning they do not refer to a specific point in time. Instead, they refer to a general time period or frequency.

Examples of using prepositions of time with indefinite time frames correctly:

  1. General time frames:
  • He usually goes for a run in the morning.
  • We visited Spain last year.
  • They’re coming back later this week.
  • I haven’t seen her in ages.
  1. Frequency:
  • I exercise three times a week.
  • They meet up once a month.
  • She checks her email several times a day.
  • We go to the beach every now and then.

Explanation of prepositions of time in phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are a combination of a verb and a preposition, and they are commonly used in English. Many phrasal verbs also involve prepositions of time, which add an element of time to the verb.

Examples of prepositions of time in phrasal verbs

  1. Look forward to – This phrasal verb is used to express anticipation or excitement about a future event. It is always followed by the preposition “to.” For example, “I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
  2. Get up to – This phrasal verb is used to describe someone’s activities during a certain period of time. It is often followed by the preposition “during.” For example, “I wonder what they got up to during their vacation.”
  3. Run out of – This phrasal verb is used to describe when you no longer have a supply of something. It is often followed by the preposition “of.” For example, “I ran out of milk this morning.”


Tips for Mastering Prepositions of Time

Consistent Practice and Application

Consistency in practicing the usage of these prepositions fosters proficiency.

Memorization Techniques for Common Expressions

Employing mnemonic devices and memory aids aids in recalling commonly used time expressions.

Engaging in Conversations and Reading Material

Immersing oneself in conversations and diverse reading material reinforces learning and application.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

A. Explanation of common mistakes to avoid when using prepositions of time

Using the wrong preposition of time is a common mistake that many English learners make. Some prepositions can be used interchangeably, but others have specific rules for their usage. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Using “at” instead of “in” with months or years.

Example: She was born in 1990, not at 1990.

  1. Using “in” instead of “on” with specific days.

Example: The meeting is on Monday, not in Monday.

  1. Using “on” instead of “at” with specific times.

Example: The movie starts at 7 PM, not on 7 PM.

  1. Using “for” instead of “since” with specific starting points.

Example: I’ve been studying English since 2010, not for 2010.

B. Examples of common mistakes to avoid

  1. Incorrect: She will be back on next month. Correct: She will be back next month.
  2. Incorrect: I have a dentist appointment in Tuesday. Correct: I have a dentist appointment on Tuesday.
  3. Incorrect: The concert starts in 8 PM. Correct: The concert starts at 8 PM.
  4. Incorrect: I have been learning English for 3 years. Correct: I have been learning English since 2018.


Recap of Key Points

Summarizing the significance and application of prepositions of time in English language usage.

Importance of Proficient Usage in Communication

Emphasizing how mastering these prepositions enhances clarity and precision in communication.

Encouragement for Further Exploration and Practice

Motivating continual exploration and practice to achieve mastery in using prepositions of time effectively.


List of books and online website resources for further study on prepositions of time in English grammar.


  1. “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan A comprehensive guide covering various aspects of English grammar, including prepositions of time, with practical examples and explanations.
  2. “English Prepositions Explained” by Seth Lindstromberg This book provides detailed insights into prepositions, including their usage in different contexts, making it useful for understanding prepositions of time.
  3. “Advanced Grammar in Use” by Martin Hewings An advanced-level grammar book that explores intricate grammar topics, including prepositions, offering exercises and explanations specifically addressing time-related prepositions.
  4. “English Grammar in Use” by Raymond Murphy A popular grammar book suitable for learners at different proficiency levels, offering clear explanations and exercises on prepositions, including those related to time.
  5. “Oxford A-Z of English Usage” by Jeremy Butterfield An alphabetical guide covering various aspects of English usage, including prepositions, with detailed entries on their usage in different time-related contexts.

Online Resources:

    1. Grammarly – Prepositions of Time Grammarly’s blog provides articles and resources on various grammar topics, including prepositions of time, offering insights and examples for learners.
    2. Perfect English Grammar – Time PrepositionsThis website offers explanations, exercises, and quizzes specifically focusing on prepositions of time, aiding in understanding and practice.
    3. EnglishClub – Prepositions of Time EnglishClub provides a dedicated section on prepositions of time, offering explanations, examples, and exercises for learners.
    4. BBC Learning English – Time Prepositions BBC Learning English features lessons on time prepositions, including audiovisual content, quizzes, and exercises for learners at various levels.
    5. The Free Dictionary – Prepositions of Time This resource provides definitions, examples, and usage explanations of prepositions of time, enhancing understanding for learners.

Written by ARZPAK

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