One-Point English Lesson – Prepositions of Time – At, In, & On

MichaelAD Grammar Leave a Comment

How do we use AT, ON, and IN to talk about time?

I’ve got a busy day today. I got up at 6:30 and took my dog for a walk. I need to get up early on Monday’s because I have early classes that day. Actually, I have early classes all week this week, except for Friday. That’s because it’s my friend Jack’s birthday. It’s on March 21st, the same day as the first day of spring. Usually in spring, you can see the trees and flowers starting to turn green. We’ve had a cold winter this year so I’m not sure if the green will be starting in March at all.

Today, let’s have a look at the prepositions atin, and on and see how we use those in English to talk about time.

We use at to talk about clock time. Keep in mind that noon means exactly 12:00pm and midnight means exactly 12:00am (0:00):

  • I got up at 6:30and took my dog for a walk. *Use at for clock time.
  • We usually eat lunch at noon.
  • I went to bed at midnight last night, so I’m a little tired today.

We use on to talk about the day or date:

  • I get up early on Monday’s because I have early classes that day. *Use on for day or date.
  • My friend Jack’s birthday is on March 21

We use in for months, so look at the difference in these two sentences:

  • Nick’s birthday is in June. *Use in for months.
  • Nick’s birthday is on June 3rd*Use on for day or date.

We use in for all other large units of time:

  • Christmas is in December*Use in for months.
  • Tomoko came to the USA in 2011*Use in for years.
  • The Beatles were popular in the 1960’s*Use in for decades.
  • There were many new electronic inventions in the twentieth century*Use inf or centuries.
  • The artifacts in that museum exhibition were made in the middle ages*Use in for long time periods.
  • In the Stone Age, early humans used tools made from stone. *Use in for very long time periods.

There are also some fixed expressions that use atin, and on. We say in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening…BUT…at night:

  • I have a meeting in the morning.
  • Why don’t we go to the café in the afternoon.
  • Many people drive on the highway in the evening.
  • I like to relax at night.

Keep in mind the best way to remember this or any vocabulary in English is to take the word or phrase write it in a sentence that’s true for you or true in your world and then memorize your sentences.

You can even take your sentences and write them in the comments below. I would love to see your examples. And if you really want help with vocabulary, sign up for my free vocabulary workshop (see below).

If you know anyone who might be interested in this English language point, why not help them out! Just share this lesson with them. Thanks for studying today!


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