Prepositions of time tell us when something happens, and for how long. They are usually used with clock times, mealtimes, parts of the day, months, years, and other durations:
- I’ll see you at 8 o’clock.
- My brother gets up late on Sundays.
- Shakespeare died in 1616.
Common prepositions of time
The most common prepositions to talk about time are ‘in‘, ‘on‘, and ‘at‘.
We use the preposition on to talk about days, parts of the day, dates and special days:
– days: on Monday, on my birthday, on Christmas Day
– days + morning / afternoon / evening / night: on Tuesday morning
– dates: on the 15th of June
- Shall we go shopping on Sunday afternoon?
- I usually go out on Saturday.
- The festival will take place on the 15th of August.
- We always have a huge celebration on New Year’s Eve.
We use the preposition at to talk about a point in time (clock time or mealtime):
– times: at 8pm, at midnight, at 6:30
– holiday periods: at Christmas, at Easter
– at night
– at the weekend
– at lunchtime, at dinnertime, at breakfast time
- My alarm clock buzzed at 8.00am.
- David and Stephanie will see us tomorrow morning at breakfast.
- My favorite TV program starts at six thirty.
|Note: The preposition at is also used in the following expressions: at night, at the weekend, at the moment, at Christmas, at Easter.|
We use the preposition in to talk about parts of the day, months, seasons and years (meaning ‘during’ them):
– years: in 1992, in 2006
– months: in December, in June
– decades: in the sixties, in the 1790s
– centuries: in the 19th century
– seasons: in winter, in summer
– in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening
- Yesterday Peter woke up early in the morning.
- I graduated from the University in 2003.
- Have you been to Los Angeles in autumn?
In can also mean after some time:
- I’ll call you back in an hour.
- Jeremy hopes to finish his new painting in a week.
Prepositions ‘PAST’ and ‘TO’
We usually use the prepositions past and to to tell the time:
- It’s half past four. (4:30 – ‘past’ means ‘after’)
- It’s twenty to nine. (8:40 – ‘to’ means ‘before’)
Prepositions ‘FROM…UNTIL’ and ‘BETWEEN…AND…’
We use prepositions ‘from…until…‘ and ‘between…and…’ to say when an action starts and when it finishes:
- The shop is normally open from 8am until 6pm.
- The train is late, it’s supposed to arrive between 4pm and 6pm.
Preposition ‘UNTIL’ / ‘TIL’
We use the prepositions until or til o say when the ongoing action finishes (meaning ‘up to the time’):
- Michael has to stay at work until six o’clock.
- We will live together until next year.
Prepositions ‘SINCE’ and ‘FOR’
We use the preposition since to say when an ongoing action started:
- I’ve been studying German since last year.
- Kate’s been playing with her daughter since 11am.
We use the preposition for to say how long the action has been happening:
- John has been practicing yoga for 10 years.
- I’ve been working for 9 hours already.
We use the preposition during to say something happened in a period of time:
- I met Jane during the summer.
- She stayed at a hostel during her trip.
Prepositions ‘BEFORE’ and ‘AFTER’
We use the prepositions before and after to show a sequence of actions:
- I will finish my work before 5 o’clock. (earlier)
- I will do the dishes after dinner. (later)
Sometimes we don’t need prepositions when talking about time. No prepositions are used with the words ‘last, ‘next’, ‘this’, ‘every’, etc.:
– next week, year, month, etc.
– last night, year, etc.
– this morning, month, etc.
– every day, night, year, etc.
– today, tomorrow, yesterday.
- He promised to come tomorrow.
- I’ll see you next week.
Here’s an interesting video from mmmEnglish explaining common mistakes of using the prepositions of time:
Read more about prepositions: