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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)



Hello Gregor,

Do you mean the preposition 'in' in 'in an idle Prague afternoon'? That isn't standard - as you seem to suggest, 'on' is used with 'afternoon': 'on an idle Prague afternoon' is what I'd write.

By the way, I'd also suggest 'for a long time' instead of 'for long'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Good morning,

I would thank you to explain me which is the correct format for a date, or when to use each of them, please.

Sometimes I see, for example, January 15th, 2016; and sometimes I see just January 15, 2016.

With kind regards,

María del Pilar

Hello María de Pilar,

There is a very useful page on this in the Cambridge Dictionary's Grammar section. I think that should answer any question you might have, but if not, please let us know.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please help the type of preposition to be used in the below case.
Find attached the report as of 26th oct or as on 26th October 2016

Hello marimupx,

It is hard to be sure without knowing the full context, but I would say that the following would be most likely:

Please find attached the report on the 26th of October (a report about the 26th)

Please find attached the report from the 26th of October (a report written on the 26th)

Please find attached the report of the 26th of October (a report about the 26th or written on the 26th)


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Ali muhammed, sir I am gland to getting these lessons from you. Now I know how to using with (on AND at) thank you.

Can anyone be a dear and explain to Me which is proper usage " at nine O'clock in the evening" or " at nine o'clock at night"

Hello zuddinhafi,

As far as I know, there's no fixed rule for when the evening becomes the night – generally, 'evening' is the time of day just before and after the sun sets – and I expect that you could find people use this differently in different parts of the world. Most people, however, would probably call 21:00 the night – I certainly would.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone!

I have a question on how to properly use day of the week and date together.

Example: He was born on Sunday 24 May 1967 when his father was still aboad.

In that example, how should day and date be used correctly according to British English? Should there be a comma as well?

Best regards,


Hello SofiaB,

That is fine but there should be, as you say, commas before the year:

He was born on Sunday, 24 May, 1967, when his father was still aboad.

For a helpful summary of correct use of commas with dates see here.

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team