What Are Prepositions of Time?
Prepositions of time help us talk about a specific time and they describe when something happens in the present, the future or the past. English language has three main prepositions of time and some other prepositions of time. Let us get to know the main ones first:
- hours and minutes
- precise times, like midday, midnight, dawn, sunrise etc.
- holidays or festivals that are two or more days, like Christmas and Easter
I get up
I start my work
The meeting starts
We say 'at noon' because noon is a specific hour; it is 12 o'clock in the morning.
We go to a lot of parties
- days of the week
- specific dates
- special holidays or festivals that are one day, like Independence Day
I go to English class
I was born
She receives a paycheck
I eat cake with my friends and open the presents
'In' is used to talk about longer periods of time. What we mean by longer periods of time is:
- length of time, like in the past, in an hour, in the Ice Age
Jane and Alan are getting married
We're travelling to Italy
World War II started
What kind of music was popular
The scientific revolution happened
Do you think men can travel to Mars
Parts of the Day
We normally divide a day into different parts: morning, afternoon, noon, etc. Using prepositions with them is a little tricky because there's an exception to the rule. Look at this table to understand:
As you can see, with the time period 'night,' we do not use the preposition 'in'. We must use 'at night.'
Also note that parts of the day like noon, midnight, or sunrise are not time periods, they are specific times of the day.
Bats only hunt
I go jogging
When we want to mention both the days of the week and the specific part of that day, we must use the preposition 'on.'
On + Day of the week + Part of the Day
There's a great movie to watch
Mary's baby was born
When Not to Use Prepositions
Remember that we do not use these three time prepositions with the following time expressions:
- This + time expression (like this morning, this evening)
- Last + time expression (like last night, last Friday)
- Next + time expression (like next morning)
- Every + time expression (like every afternoon)
She's got a dentist appointment
I go to gym
I'm moving out of the apartment
I ate a pancake with syrup
At the Weekend or On the Weekend?
Both are correct. It depends on where you are speaking or using English. 'At the weekend' is used in British English. 'On the weekend' is used in American English.
The museum is open
The museum is open
Other Prepositions of Time
Now that we covered the three main prepositions, let's go through other prepositions of time in the English language, namely:
- Until (till, til, ’til)
'By' means 'not later than the time mentioned'. When we use 'by' with a specific time, it mean on or before that mentioned time. 'By' indicates a deadline for an event to happen.
He said he'll be here
He must be here before seven o'clock. The deadline is 7:00.
All students must submit their proposals
All students must submit their proposals before May 28th.
'Until' (also till, til, 'til) is both a preposition and a conjunction. When it is a preposition, it talks about an action that is continuous and stops at a specific time.
'until' describes the duration of an action before a specific time.
We stayed awake talking
Here, it means up to midnight, for a continuous duration, they kept talking and staying awake for a while.
Mark lived in London
Mark spent a duration of time living in London, then stop living in London in 2010.
'From...to' shows the duration of a time. 'From' shows the start time and 'to' shows the finish time.
The class is
The meeting is
Instead of 'to', you can also use 'until' or 'till.'
As a preposition of time, 'for' indicates a period of time. It can be used for all tenses, past, present, or future. But, mainly 'for' is used in perfect tenses.
He lived in New York
I'm only going to stay
'Before' as a preposition of time, shows that something happened, is happening or happened at or during a time earlier than the time of speaking.
He had to leave home
I want to study
'After' is the opposite of the preposition 'before.' It shows that something happened, is happening or happened at or during a time following another period of time.
During is used to say when something happens. It indicates the length of a period of time. It can also mean at some point in that period of time.
People listened to a lot of jazz
Paul and Susan didn't talk much
'Between' as a preposition almost always comes with the word 'and'; i.e. 'between A and B.' It shows a limited time period within two points in time.
There's a big sale on Macy's
The train should arrive
'Within' shows something happened in less time than (before) the time mentioned. It indicates a time during a particular period of time.
According to the diet, you should lose 7 lb.
He should be under surveillance
'Past' is one of the prepositions used to tell time, especially in British English (in American English, after is also used).
The movie starts at twenty minutes
A preposition of time is a preposition that helps you discuss a specific time period such as a 'date on the calendar,' 'one of the days of the week,' or the certain time something takes place. There are 3 main prepositions of time that are numbered from 1 to 3 in our table. You can see other prepositions of time in the following table, too.
|1. at||2. on||3. in||4. by||5. until (till, til, ’til)||6. from...to||7. since|
|8. for||9. before||10. after||11. during||12. between||13. within||14. past|
Here are the usages of 'at' as a time preposition.
|at||1. hours and minutes||2. precise times, like midday, midnight, dawn, sunrise etc.||3. holidays or festivals that are two or more days, like Christmas and Easter I get up at 8 o'clock.|
Here are the usages of 'on' as a preposition of time:
|on||1. days of the week||2. specific dates||3. special holidays or festivals that are one day, like Independence Day|
Here are the usages of 'in' as a preposition of time.
|in||1. months||2. seasons||3. years|
|4. decades||5. centuries||6. length of time, like in the past, in an hour, in the Ice Age|
Here are some time expressions in which you should not use a preposition at all.
|1. tomorrow||2. today||3. yesterday||4. tonight|
|5. this + time expression (like this morning, this evening)||6. last + time expression (like last night, last Friday)||7. next + time expression (like next morning)||8. every + time expression (like every afternoon)|