Prepositions of time: 'at', 'in', 'on'

Prepositions of time: 'at', 'in', 'on'

Do you know how and when to use at, in and on to talk about time? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how we use at, in and on to talk about time.

At weekends, I love to go skiing.
In spring, the weather is warmer.
On Mondays, I work from home.
In the afternoon, I do activities.
On weekdays, I work until 12.
At 5 o'clock, I do two or three more hours of work.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar A1-A2: Prepositions of time – 'at', 'in' and 'on': 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use the prepositions in, on or at to say when something happens.

at

We usually use at with clock times and mealtimes.

I get up at 6.30 a.m. and go for a run.
She doesn't like to leave the office at lunchtime.

We also use at with some specific phrases such as at the weekend and at night.

At the weekend, I can spend the days how I like.

We can also say on weekends or on the weekend. This is more common in American English.

We say at night when we mean all of the night. But we say in the night when we want to talk about a specific time during the night.

She's a nurse and she works at night.
The baby often wakes up in the night.

We use at with Christmas and other holidays that last several days.

The weather is very cold here at Christmas.
At Chinese New Year, many people go home to their families.

clock times at 6 o'clock
at 9.30
at 13.00
mealtimes and breaks at breakfast time
at lunchtime
at dinner time
at break time
other time phrases at night
at weekends/the weekend
at Christmas/Easter

in

We usually use in with parts of the day and longer periods of time such as months, seasons and years.

I usually relax in the evening.
In summer it's too hot to do anything.
I'm always really busy in December.

parts of the day in the morning/afternoon/evening
months in January/February
seasons in (the) spring/summer/autumn/winter
years, centuries, decades in 2016
in the 21st century
in the 80s
other time phrases in the past
in the future
in the last few years/months/weeks/days

on

We usually use on with days and dates.

On Fridays, I have a long lunch.
It's his birthday on 19 October.

days on Monday/Tuesday etc.
on my birthday
on New Year's Day
dates on 30 July
on the second of August

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar A1-A2: Prepositions of time – 'at', 'in' and 'on': 2

Average: 4.1 (270 votes)
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Submitted by vosik121 on Wed, 25/10/2023 - 16:33

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Hello I would like to ask about for/in
I was talking with my mentor about not being in a Theatre for at least three years the exact sentence was: "I haven't been to a Theatre in a long time" and afterward she corrected me that stead of in I should have used for. Would you mind explaining please?

Hello vosik121,

When the sentence is affirmative you can use only 'for':

I have been going to this theatre for a long time.

 

However, when the sentence is negative both are possible:

I haven't been to this theatre for a long time.

I haven't been to this theatre in a long time.

 

In your example both 'in' and 'for' are possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by vantina on Mon, 09/10/2023 - 09:28

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Hi, if I want to talk about certain kind of days, such as windy days or sunny days, which preposition should I use?
For example, ‘on windy days I feel funny’, or ‘in windy days I feel funny’?
I would instinctively use ‘on’, but I’d like to understand better.

Thanks in advance (:

Hello vantina,

Yes, you are right in thinking that we use 'on'. In general, if the word or phrase we're referring to has the word 'day' in it somewhere (e.g. 'windy days', 'holidays', 'Christmas Day', 'weekdays'), we use 'on'.

I hope that helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Claire Delzechi on Wed, 27/09/2023 - 09:38

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Hello,

Why do we use "on" with "holidays"? "On" should be used with days and dates...If we follow the grammar rules, we should say "at holidays", which sounds wrong :) Thanks!

Hello Claire,

While what I'm about to say is probably not always true, in general we use 'at' + a holiday when we're talking about a holiday season. For example, 'at Christmas' can refer not just to Christmas Day, but the days surrounding it.

But there's a strong tendency to use 'on' with the word 'day', so we say 'on Christmas Day' (not 'at Christmas Day'). The same could be said of the word 'holiday', which has the word 'day' in it.

I hope that helps you make sense of it, but please also consider that what we call 'rules' are really just observations of the way native speakers have come to use the language over time.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by quykaba11062002 on Sat, 16/09/2023 - 15:23

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Thanks for the authority, I completely understand the usage of prepositions of time.

Submitted by enigma4ever25 on Thu, 10/08/2023 - 16:09

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Which preposition must we use with this phrase ( Saturday lunchtime) ?

Hi enigma4ever25,

It should be "on", but it's quite common to drop the preposition too, e.g. I'll see you Saturday lunchtime.

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by kikoo on Thu, 10/08/2023 - 08:33

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Hello, I have a sentence "I am completing competitive programming fundamental ... Coursera". What should I fill? In or at? Thank you