20 Examples of effectively using prepositions in, on, at
Updated: Mar 17
We will talk about how to use the prepositions of time in on, and at. The English words in, on and at are the three most common prepositions of time used in the English language. Here you will find examples of prepositions of time and the differences between in, on, and at. You will also find examples and a table of prepositions to make things super simple and clear!
Table of Contents
What are prepositions of time?
Prepositions of time are words that go before a noun in order to give information regarding the time or timing of said noun. Think of them as words that signal the time we are talking about. Read on to find out about three of the main prepositions of time in common use.
How do we use the prepositions in, on, and at?
Here we will find out about the words in, on, and at. We will find out what the differences are between them and look at some examples to illustrate how they are used. At this point, it is a good time to say that there are some crossovers when we talk about using in, on, or at. Sometimes you will hear different prepositions used in English to mean a similar thing, but both can be correct! One example of this is: Where shall we go at the weekend? Versus where shall we go on the weekend? Both are actually correct!
When should we use in, on or at?
In short, we can use the preposition in to talk about year or length of time. We can use on to talk about a day or a date. We can use at to talk about parts of the day, for instance at lunchtime or times of the year such as at Christmas.
In actual fact though, there are many more scenarios where we have to be careful about what preposition to use. Sometimes we need to use in, sometimes we need to use at and at other times we must use on, so let’s break this down into clear steps and find out!
How do you use the preposition in?
You may be wondering how to use the preposition in. Wonder no more, here you will find examples and rules about how to use this preposition, along with others.
What are the rules about using the preposition in?
We use the word in before a year, a part of the day, a length of time, months, weeks, hours, minutes, seasons, and centuries.
What are some examples of the preposition in?
1. Talking about a year: I worked there in 1995.
2. Talking about a part of the day: He had a nice cup of tea in the morning.
3. Talking about a length of time: He will arrive at the station in about 40 minutes.
4. Talking about months: She will go to the United Kingdom of Great Britain in about two months.
5. Talking about weeks: Mr. Smith is going to have a vacation to the United States in a few weeks.
6. Talking about hours: This lesson will finish in one hour.
7. Talking about minutes: I’ll come over to your house in 20 minutes.
8. Talking about seasons: I like to take in the cherry blossoms in spring, they are so beautiful.
9. Talking about centuries: Many inventions were created in the 20th century. Many more inventions will be created in this century, too!
How can I use the preposition at and what are the rules about how to use it?
Speakers of English use the preposition at to talk about parts of the day, times on the clock, and also particular times. These particular times are sometimes idiomatic. This means they are phrases used in English that don’t exactly follow rules. We just have to remember how native speakers of English use them.
My advice here, as an English teacher, is to just look at these idiomatic examples and remember them. Remember them like patterns you see in art or in the sky. Do not try too hard to deduce logical meaning, as there often isn't any! This is how you will learn to use idioms in English. If you try to think about the logic or the reasons why idioms are the way they are you will probably just be wasting your time. Remember them as native speakers say them, that’s all! For more on idiomatic expressions, why not check out 11 popular idioms in English and how to use them to boost your fluency?
What are some examples of the preposition at?
When we talk about parts of the day we can use at as follows:
10. At breakfast lunch and dinner: I talked to Jim’s mother at breakfast time.
11. At noon: Janet and Dave usually have their lunch at noon or thereabouts.
12: At bedtime: It is important to brush our teeth at bedtime.
13: At some time of the day: Charlie likes to keep his bedroom light on at night because he’s a little bit scared of the dark.
When we talk about times on the clock we can use at as follows:
14: At 9 o’clock
15: At 8:25
16: At quarter past three．
When we talk about particular times which are sometimes idiomatic we can use at as follows:
At the moment.
What does at the moment mean? This phrase just means “now”.
At this point in time.
What does at this point in time mean? This phrase just means now, not before or after. For example: “At this point in time I wouldn’t like to change jobs because I am happy in my current job.”
At any time.
What does the phrase at any time mean? It means that something can happen immediately without warning. A tornado could begin at any time so you should be careful! An earthquake could begin at any time so you should be careful!
What does the phrase at times mean? It means something similar to "sometimes"
How do you use the preposition on and what are the rules?
We use on before a noun. Commonly, English speakers use the preposition on with day, date, and event like a birthday, holidays which include the word day in the name. On a day like Tuesday or Wednesday and also for a part of the day, like on Wednesday morning.
What are some examples of the preposition on?
17: On a day. I went to school on Tuesday.
18: On a date. He’s going to the dentist on the third of this month.
19: For an event. What are you going to do on your birthday? On my birthday, I’m going to have a party!
20: For a part of the day: On Wednesday morning I take a class to improve my English.
By the way, if as a learner of English, you are wondering why there is often an article used with days, dates and times ( For example a day, a month, at a time), then why not check out our post which explains and tells you how to use articles effectively.
An easy to understand table for prepositions of time
days and repetitive times
part of the day
time of day
Example: at night, at noon
length of time
at holidays with no "day" in the name
Example: birthday, wedding day
Example: at Christmas, at Easter
holiday with day in the name
Idiomatic English phrases
Example: Christmas Day
Example: at the minute (now)
part of day
Example: at the moment (now)
Example: On Friday morning
Example: at some point ( some time in the future)
Example: on Saturday evening
Example: at any moment (something is imminent)
How can we use prepositions of time to improve our English skills?
The more you practice using prepositions of time in sentences and dialogues, the easier it will become to use them in daily English conversation. One of the ways to improve your English vocabulary and grammar is by reading out aloud.
Here are some examples of prepositions in natural English conversation. As an English teacher here at Daniels English Club, I would recommend reading through these conversations, think about why the prepositions are used, and then read them out aloud. After you are comfortable with the sentences and think you can remember them try covering one sentence at a time and reading them aloud. This will help you to remember both the sentences and prepositions. Good luck!
1. A dialogue about school life using prepositions of time
Terry: Good morning Jack how are you doing today?
Jack: Pretty good thanks, Terry. What did you get up to at the weekend?
Terry: Not too much to be honest, it was a quiet one for me.
Jack: Really? I went to the cinema with Janet.
Terry: Oh, did you catch the morning show again?
Jack: No, we didn’t. We went in the afternoon this time.
2. A dialogue about office life using prepositions of time
Mr. Smith: If I could have your attention for a moment, please?
Carl and Tina: Okay.
Mr. Smith: I would like to inform you about our team meeting which is taking place in the afternoon. I would like you all to be in the office at 3 o’clock, please.
Carl: Oh I thought the meeting was taking place on Monday, not today!
Mr. Smith: It was originally scheduled for Monday but it has been brought forward due to some issues with accounting.
Carl: OK, I understand. I was originally planning to meet a client in the afternoon but I will have to cancel that now.
3. Dialogue in a social situation using prepositions of time
Tom: Hey Mike, what are you going to do at the weekend?
Mike: Not too much, to be honest. I think on Sunday I’m going to play golf. Would you like to join me?
Tom: That would be pretty fun! When are you going?
Mike: I’m aiming to start playing at about 9 o’clock in the morning. Would you be able to come to my house at about 8:30?
Tom: Yes, that would be fine. We can take my car if you’d like?
Mike: No way! You’re a terrible driver. Do you remember that time you drove at Easter?
Tom: I was trying to forget about that!