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

… and in these phrases:

at night - at the weekend - at Christmas - at Easter

• We use in with:

seasons of the year: in spring/summer/autumn/winter - in the spring /summer/autumn/winter
years and centuries: in 2009 -in 1998 - in the twentieth century
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 15th

Note: 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 short time during the night:

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

We use the adverb 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 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.

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

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?

Thanks!

Regards,
Tim

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,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
The rule on this page says that we use 'at night' for the whole night and 'in the night' for a particular time in the night. But the grammar section of Cambridge dictionary says that we use 'at night' for all the night in general and 'in the night' for a particular night'. Why is this difference?

Thanks

Hi naghmairam,

I don't think there is a difference here. The rule is the same but is phrased slightly differently. We use 'at night' with a general meaning and 'in the night' when we are talking about a particular time or period during the night.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi LE team,

Choose the correct option:
I met my boyfriend on holiday last/in summer. (last summer is correct, according to the key)

So if I understand it right, "in" can't be used as this sentence refers to a specific summer, not to summer in general. But the option "I met my boyfriend on holiday in the summer" would be perfectly fine. Because when we talk about summer in general we can use both "in summer/in the summer" but when we talk about a specific summer (usually the last one or the one coming) we can only use "in the summer" but not "in summer". Is that correct?

Hi radovan1972,

Yes, that is correct. Well done!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

'I was looking at my keyboard for long with fingers benumbed, in an idle Prague afternoon'
Is the article right over here? Is it acceptable or it 'must' be on an idle Prague afternoon will be the only correct option? Please help.

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk!

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