Preposition of Time: At, On, and In

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A preposition is a function word that is placed before a noun or anything equivalent to a noun. Prepositions are used to create a connection between the noun and the other words of the sentence.

Example: My cousin will come on Monday.

In the above example, “On” is the preposition. The preposition is used to create a link between the noun “Monday” and the rest of the words. As “Monday” refers to a specific time, we call it a preposition of time.  

“At,” “On,” and “In” are the three most common prepositions of time that we use before any noun in a sentence to create a time connection between the object (noun) and the rest of the other words in the sentence. A preposition of time helps us understand any specific year (In 2001), month (In July), date (On 26th June), day (On Sunday), time (6 o’clock), etc.

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Use of “At” as a
Preposition of Time  
Use of “On” as a
Preposition of Time  
Use of “In” as a
Preposition of Time  
We usually use “At” for a specific time of day and any particular day, such as a holiday or festival.We usually use “On” for all the seven days of the week and any specific date of a calendar.We usually use “In” for any month, year and season.

Though prepositions are one of the significant parts of speech that we use in most sentences, I find many of my students make mistakes in using prepositions. I have already mentioned the primary uses of prepositions of time in the above table.

However, there are some other uses too. In this post, I will share some essential rules and relevant examples for each rule that will surely help you learn prepositions of time: At, On, and In.

“At” Is Used for Clock Times

Example 1: Anne called me at 5 o’clock.

Example 2: They left at 3 PM.

“At” Is Used for Any Specific Time of the Day

Example 1: Ruana will meet us at lunchtime.

Example 2: He will text me at night.

Note: Noon, lunchtime, dinnertime, bedtime, sunrise, sunset, night, etc., are the words that take “At” before them.  

Exception: The words “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening” do not take “At” before them, though they refer to a specific time of a day. I will talk about them in the latter part of the post.

“At” Is Used for Specific Points in Time

Preposition of Time
At the Moment

Example 1: Razib is busy at the moment.

Example 2: At present, he is working on our new website.

Note: The moment, the end, the start, the same time, etc., are the phrases that take “At” before them.

“At” Is Used for Holidays or Festivals

Example 1: They go for an outing at the weekends.

Example 2: We visit our relatives at Eid.

Note: Some native speakers of English also prefer using “On” before holidays and festivals. I will talk about it in the next part of the post.  

“On” Is Used for Any Day of the Week

Preposition of Time
Use of “On”

Example 1: Rishita will join on Monday.

Example 2: They arrived on Saturday.

Note: We also use “On” before, “Thursday night,” “Saturday morning,” “Friday evening,” etc.

“On” Is Used for Any Date of the Month

Example 1: Rabina will be there on 6 June.

Example 2: My father will visit my place on 16 December 2021.

“On” Is Used for Any Special Day

Example 1: We’ve decided to launch the new product on Victory Day.

Example 2: I will publish my next book on my birthday.

Example 3: My parents send me gifts on Christmas Day.

“In” Is Used for Any Month of the Year

Example 1: I was born in June.

Example 2: They will go to India in April.

“In” Is Used for Any Season

Example 1: I love to visit my grandparents’ place in winter.

Example 2: Different flowers bloom in spring.

“In” Is Used for Any Year

Example 1: My younger brother started learning guitar in 2019.

Example 2: Jhohan was born in 2000.

“In” Is Used For the Century

Example 1: Novel became a popular genre of literature in the 19th century.

Example 2: Many social media platforms have flourished in this century.

“In” Is Used for General Times of the Day

Preposition of Time
Use of “In”

Example 1: My father loves to have a 30-minute walk in the morning.

Example 2: We play football in the afternoon.

Example 3: I come back home in the evening.

“In” Is Used for a Long/Extended Time

Example 1: He was more active in the past.

Example 2: I will never make this mistake in the future.

Example 3: We are living in an era of technology.

Example 4: T.S Eliot was a significant poet in the modern age.

No Preposition for Last, Next, This, Every, Today, Yesterday

Example 1: I went to Dhaka last month.

Example 2: Billie will apply for a new job next year.

Example 3: She called me this morning.

Example 4: My niece goes to school every day.

Example 5: We have a meeting today.

Example 6: He arrived yesterday.

In Conclusion

Prepositions of time and place are considered the two difficult areas that ESL learners struggle to master. Yet, I expect the above discussion on “At,” “On,” and “In” will help you to master the use of prepositions of time correctly. 

I hope the discussion will help you to understand everything about the use of prepositions of time: at, on, and in.

Thanks for reading.

Happy learning!

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 8 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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