Prepositions of Time!

Last time we talked about parts of speech.  So this time, let’s talk about prepositions!

Prepositions have many functions, but one of their most common and basic ones is indicating time.  In many languages, you can use the same one or two prepositions to talk about time, but in English there are a lot more!

But if you know which prepositions to use, there are some simple rules that you can follow that will help you with most conversations about time.

So let’s talk about the three most fundamental (and confusing!) prepositions: at, on, and in.


At is used for clock time.

  • At six o’clock
  • At seven thirty-five
  • At midnight

“I’m going to bed at ten o’clock tonight.”

What time does the show start?”

At 6:30.”

Be careful, though!  Many English learners think “midnight” and “noon” refer to times of day instead of clock times, but they are clock times.  Specifically, midnight is 12:00am (when most people are asleep) and noon is 12:00pm (when many people are eating lunch).  So, for example, 12:01am is NOT midnight and 12:01pm is NOT noon.

At is also used for one more time expression: night.

  • At night

“I usually watch TV at night.”

When do you exercise?”

“Usually at night.”


On is used for single days.

  • On Monday
  • On January 10th
  • On my birthday
  • On Christmas

“Work starts again on Monday.”

“What are you going to do on your birthday?”

When is your husband coming back from his business trip?”

On the 4th.”


In is used for any period of time longer than a day.

  • In December (one month)
  • In 2015 (one year)
  • In the summer (about three months)

“I’m moving to Tokyo in January.”

“I’m going to go surfing in the summer.”

When did you start working here?”

In 2010.”

In is also used to talk about times of day.

  • In the morning
  • In the afternoon
  • In the evening

“I exercised in the morning.”

“I’m going to meet some friends in the evening.”

“When do you take a nap?”

In the afternoon.”

In can also be used to talk about a point in the future.

  • In two days.
  • In a few days.
  • In 2020.

“I’m going to move in three weeks.”

“The movie is going to start in an hour.”

When will dinner be ready?”

In just a few minutes.”

That’s it for now!  Check back in a couple weeks to see how to use these prepositions to talk about locations and directions!


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