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)



Hello hermit_tea,

The prepositions we use to describe when something happens are as follows:

in the morning

in the afternoon

in the evening

at night

at the weekend (Saturday - Sunday

in the week (Monday - Friday


It is possible to say 'in the night' when we want to say 'during the night'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I've got a question regarding the use of "in", i.e. If I were to say "I will see you in 10 mins", do I mean I will see you immediately after the 10 mins is up, or exactly at the 10 mins mark, or within/before the 10 mins duration?

Also, I've got another question regarding the use of "at the end of", when i say "I will see you at the end of the lesson", does it mean immediately after the lesson? Or simply at the when the lesson ends?

Thanks in advance!


Hello Tim,

I suspect there may be some variation in what people mean, but in general I'd say 'in 10 mins' means 10 minutes from now and 'at the end of class' means either in the last moments of class or immediately after. In any case, I wouldn't take either form literally in most cases -- people use them to give an approximate time rather than a precise one most of the time. Context will usually tell.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teachers,

I recently got into a "mini argument" with a friend over the use of this and next to describe a day of the week. In short, the day was a monday, and I mentioned that next Tuesday I would pass my friend a new pen - by this I meant the following week's tueday; however, my friend assumed that I meant the immediate tuesday, i.e. the day following the monday on which we had our conversation.

May I know if my usuage of "next tuesday" to mean the following week's Tuesday rather than the immediate next day's tueday is correct?


Hello Tim,

I use 'next' in the same way as you, i.e. to refer to the week after the one I'm currently in. But that is not necessarily the way everyone uses it. I've had similar misunderstandings with other native speakers as well as non-native speakers. So I'm afraid there is no clear correct way to say this. When I want to be sure, I often say something like 'next Tuesday, in 9 days' or 'next Tuesday, the (date)'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teachers,

I've got some queries on the use of "this" + time period. Oxford defines the use of "this + time period" as "Used with periods of time related to the present". I suppose this means that it could refer to a time period just passed - as in "I did not go to school these few days" (referring to the past recent few days), or a time period that has begun and is in progress - as in "I'm busy this morning" (implying the morning has started and in progress, and that this person will likely be busy throughout the whole morning, or a time period that is due to commence in the near future - as in "they urged us not to give the kids any presents this (coming) christmast" (implying that while christmast has not begun, the author is referring to the impending christmast).

My queries are: (a) Is my understanding of the use of "this+ time periods", as described in my examples above, correct? (b) Also, regarding my last example, as in "this (coming) christmast", am I right to say that the coming is redundant, that is if I were to mean this next, immediate chirstmast that is approaching, using "this christmast" alone plus the context of the rest of my sentence, would be enough to convey my meaning, and that the use of coming is redundant?

Apologies for the lengthy queries, and thanks in advance for your advice.


Hello Tim,

Yes, I think your summary is a good one.

The use of 'coming' in that example is indeed redundant. It is a stylistic option.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teachers!

When one says "last year" or "last night", he/she refers to the most recent year or night. But am I right to say that this does not tell a definite time? As in last year or last night can mean anytime within the year or night?



Hi Tim,

Yes, that is correct. If you say that something happened last week then it does not tell us what time or what day the event occured.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team