English Corner – Prepositions of Time

In other blog entries, we covered the general topic of ‘prepositions’ and then we broke it down even further by highlighting certain ‘prepositions of place.’ For this post, I am going to focus on the other half of prepositions which can be categorized as ‘prepositions of time.’ If you are able to master both prepositions of place and prepositions of time as an English student, you are going to do very well in terms of writing complete sentences that make grammatical sense and also improve your conversational skills. There are many prepositions of time similarly to how many prepositions of place there are but I am going to focus on the ones that will come up the most during your studies of this important grammatical topic.

I am going to focus on the five most popular prepositions of time starting with the three main ones known as ‘in, on, at’ which are also used as prepositions of place in different ways. As prepositions of time, ‘in, on, at’ are used in various ways and have different intended uses.

For example, the preposition ‘in’ can be used for describing months, seasons, years, decades, centuries, longer periods of time such as millennia as well.

Months – in March, in October

Seasons – in the Summer, in the Winter

Years – in 1991, in 2018

Decades – in the 2000s, in the 1960s

Centuries – in the 21st century

Unspecified Periods of Time – in the past, in the future

Below I have listed some example sentences where the preposition ‘in’ is being used in various ways associated with describing time.

  • My birthday is in October.
  • It is the hottest time of the year here in the summer.
  • In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy was President of the United States.

As you can see, the preposition of time ‘in’ can be used towards in the middle of the sentence but also at the beginning of a sentence as its first word especially when describing a decade.

When it comes to the preposition ‘on’, it can also be used in a number of ways. ‘On’ is specifically used for describing days of the weeks, part(s) of the day, specific dates, and special days such as anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, etc.

Days of the week – on Monday, on Saturday

Specific part(s) of the day – on Sunday afternoon, on Tuesday night

Specific date(s) – on December 31st, on April 1st

Special days – on our anniversary, on my birthday, on the wedding day

Here are some examples below of how the preposition ‘on’ can be used correctly according to its various usages related to the descriptions above:

  • On Friday evenings, I like to go to the movies with my girlfriend.
  • We went to the baseball game together on my birthday.
  • April Fools day is known to be on April 1st.

‘On’ can be used in various parts of the overall sentence and is not solely restricted to the beginning or end of a regular sentence. It’s important to note that ‘on’ is a preposition that is more specific in its purposes when compared to the preposition ‘in’ when it is used for time.

Next, we have the last preposition of time which could be considered one of the three musketeers of prepositions. ‘At’ has a variety of uses and is known for being the most specific of the three main prepositions of time. ‘At’ can be mainly used for describing times on the clock, festivals, holidays, and more general times of the day or night.

Times on the clock – at 5:30, at 4:15

Festivals / Holidays – at Christmas, at Thanksgiving

General times of the day – at night, at lunchtime

Listed below are some key examples to draw from when it comes to being able to use the preposition ‘at’ in the right context and with the right usage:

  • Chris gets out of his soccer practice at 5:00.
  • We get together as a family at Christmas time.
  • The couple likes to go out and dance Salsa at night.

Two additional prepositions of time to be aware of as an English student are ‘for’ and ‘during.’

‘For’ is a more specific preposition of time that is used to describe a length of time where an action or event is taking place. You use ‘for’ to discuss how long something or someone will be going on for with whatever kind of action that they are doing. Here are some examples to make it easier for you reading this post to master this preposition of time.

  • The volleyball tournament lasted for four hours total because there were so many teams competing.
  • The music festival lasted for three days and three nights since there were a lot of bands playing.

The 2nd additional preposition to be aware of is ‘during’ which is used as a preposition to discuss when something happens during a certain timeframe. It’s more general in terms of the timeframe when compared to ‘for’ but it can discuss an action that happened in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening or in the night. Here are some examples to help you with this very specific preposition of time:

  • The blizzard happened during the night and school was closed as a result.
  • During the summer drought, farmers had to conserve their use of water for their agriculture and cattle.

As you can see from these examples, ‘during’ is a more general preposition of time when compared to ‘for’ which discusses a specific timeframe in hours, days, or weeks.

Unfortunately, there are more than five prepositions of time but I believe from my experience that ‘in, at, on, for, during’ are the most common prepositions for this kind of usage. In addition, if you wish to know all of them, there are also other prepositions of time such as since, ago, before, past, to, from, until, by.’ I may have another blog post focused on these prepositions but the most important ones to know to get by in describing time accurately in the English language are in, on, at, for, during.

 Good luck with the prepositions of time and please leave a comment if you have any questions about this grammar topic.

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