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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)

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Comments

I want to share old pictures and I want to say that this pictures were taken 5 years ago.
Which one is correct:
On this week 5 years ago , or
In this week 5 years ago .

Hi RamyLarrom,

I think I'd probably say Five years ago this week, ... . 'This week' can be used as a time adverbial, without a preposition, so I wouldn't use in or on here.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir Jonathan,
When someone read that sentence it feels like there's more words to this, It doesn't feel like It talks about a photo above .
Did you understand what I want to say sir ?

Hi RamyLarrom,

Oh, I see :) Then, I'd just write Five years ago this week (without continuing the sentence).

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I need help differentiating the difference between an adverb of time and an adverbial of time.

For example, 'He only noticed yesterday', is yesterday an adverb or adverbial?

Another one I'm stumped on is the word 'then' being used to refer to the term 'next'. E.g. 'Then he went off to the shop'. Is this an adverb or adverbial of time?

Thank you

Hello Y74629Y,

The distinction is quite simple, I think. An adverb is a single word which modifies a verb or a clause/sentence. An adverbial is a word or a group of words with the same function. In other words, all adverbs are adverbials.

 

In your examples, 'yesterday' and 'then' are both adverbs as they are single words. They are also adverbials, as all adverbs are part of the larger group which we call adverbials.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for getting back to my comment. I thought that might be the case but I had that worry at the back of my mind.

Thanks again!

Dear Sir,

Greetings!

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,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

It's really educative.

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