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When (time and dates)

Level: elementary

We use phrases with prepositions as time adverbials:

  • We use at with:
clock times: at seven o'clock at nine thirty at fifteen hundred hours  
mealtimes: at breakfast at lunchtime at teatime  
these phrases: at night at the weekend at Christmas at Easter
  • We use in with:
seasons of the year: in (the) spring/summer/autumn/winter        
years, centuries, decades: in 2009 in 1998 in the 20th century in the 60s in the 1980s
months: in January/February/March etc.        
parts of the day: in the morning in the afternoon in the evening    
  • We use on with:
days: on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday etc. on Christmas day on my birthday
dates: on the thirty-first of July on June the fifteenth    
Be careful!

We say at night when we are talking about all of the night:

When there is no moon, it is very dark at night.
He sleeps during the day and works at night.

but we say in the night when we are talking about a specific time during the night:

He woke up twice in the night.
I heard a funny noise in the night.

We often use a noun phrase as a time adverbial:

yesterday today tomorrow
last week/month/year this week/month/year next week/month/year
last Saturday this Tuesday next Friday
the day before yesterday   the day after tomorrow
one day/week/month    
the other day/week/month    

We can put time phrases together:

We will meet next week at six o'clock on Monday.
I heard a funny noise at about eleven o'clock last night.
It happened last week at seven o'clock on Monday night.

We use ago with the past simple to say how long before the time of speaking something happened:

I saw Jim about three weeks ago.
We arrived a few minutes ago.

We use in with a future form to say how long after the time of speaking something will happen:

I'll see you in a month.
Our train's leaving in five minutes.

When (time and dates)



Dear Sir,


Is there any order for time phrases in the following sentence?

We will meet "next week" "at six o'clock" "on Monday".

can we write the same sentence like, "We will meet at six o'clock on Monday next week"?

Hello Chekytan,

You can use these three phrases in several different orders and people would understand them all. I think it'd be clearer, though, if you put 'next week' and 'on Monday' next to each other (it doesn't really matter which goes first), since they both refer to a day and the other phrase refers to a time. 

When there's a prepositional phrase that refers to time (e.g. 'in the afternoon') and another prepositional phrase that refers to a place (e.g. 'to the beach'), usually the place phrase comes before the time phrase: 'We're going to the beach in the afternoon' is more natural than 'We're going in the afternoon to the beach'. The second one isn't really wrong, but native speakers almost always use the first order instead of the second one.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

It's really educative.

Why is it:
In the evenings I never take work home with me. (evenings is plural)
I'm usually at work by 8 in the morning. (morning is singular)

What's the difference and rule for the singular vs plural time indicator? Or are both singular and plural correct in both sentences?

I can't seem to find and answer to the question after extensive research.

Hello DebbieV

When we make a day of the week plural after the preposition 'on', it refers to repeated events. For example, 'I go to the market on Fridays' means I go there every Friday, whereas 'I'm going to the market on Friday' refers to my plan for one specific Friday. Actually, quite often, people leave out the preposition 'on' and just say the plural day of the week ('I go to the market Fridays').

I'm not sure I'd say 'evenings' (which is not a day of the week) in the first sentence you ask about, but it doesn't sound wrong to me and I'd understand it to mean 'every evening' -- though of course the adverb 'always' also makes this clear.

In the second case you ask about, 'in the morning' is another way of saying 'a.m.' -- in this case, 'morning' (or any other time of day) isn't used in the plural in any situation that I can think of.

Does that help you make sense of it?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Yes it does! Thanks for the speedy reply

are these sentences correct:
On the next day I went to see my friend.
At the next day I went to see my friend.
The next day I went to see my freind.

Thank you, Anna

Hello Anna

The last one is the best choice -- normally, a preposition isn't used before 'the next day'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

"the end of the month"- could mean the week of the 23-31st.
"the last week of the month"

So what preposition should i use?

Hello Dean,
The correct preposition is 'at':
> I'll be back at the end of the month.
The term is not precisely defined and so the precise meaning depends on the context in which it is used.
The LearnEnglish Team