English is a complicated language to learn. There are so much grammar, tenses, phonics and so many different prepositions, and each one is used in a specific instance with a different set of rules – and as always in English, there are the exceptions that seem to make no logical sense. Prepositions of time show the relationship of the nouns to the passing of time and their position in time.
There are three main prepositions of time in the English language. These are “at”, “in”, and “on”. These indicate exact, long periods and specific days respectively. There are also other propositions of time that add meaning to sentences such as after, before, until, during etc.
In the article below we have more examples and use cases of these three main prepositions of time and common examples. We also have downloads to help you both understand and teach prepositions of time.
Examples Sentences with Prepositions of Time.
|“At” indicates an exact time||“In” indicates longer periods of time, months and years for example.||“On” indicates specific dates|
|I go to school at 8.00am.||The iPhone was unveiled in 2007||My driving test is on Wednesday|
|we will talk about it at breakfast||In 1969 people walked on the moon for the first time.||We have a romantic dinner on Valentines Day.|
|The birds stop singing at sunset.||In the next decade we plan to send people to Mars.||I’m relaxing on my birthday.|
|Lunch is served at noon.||In summer we will go on holiday.||I go to church on Sundays|
English has three main prepositions of time:
However, there are numerous other Prepositions of Time that can affect and add meaning to the sentence: We have a table below with examples of use to help and as a downloadable infographic as well below that.
Further Prepositions of Time Examples.
|Prepositions of Time||When used||Example|
|in||The preposition “in” is used to indicate extended period||My father died in 1996.|
|at||The Preposition “at” indicates exact time.||I will meet you at eight o’clock.|
|on||The preposition “on” is used for named days or dates.|
Where will you go on Saturday?
|from / to||“From … to” is used to describe a portion of time||From Christmas to New Years the shops are quieter|
|between||“between” is used to describe a portion of time||Between Christmas and Easter, the shops are busy.|
|for||“for” is used to describe a portion of time or length of time.||I waited for six hours|
|since||“Since” means that from some time in the past until now.||I have been in bed since yesterday.|
|during||“During” indicates throughout the course or duration of a time period.||During the day i get more tired.|
|before||“Before” is used for a point prior to an event or section of time||It is darkest before the dawn.|
|ago||“Ago” references a point in time prior to the current time.||Hundreds of years ago .|
|after||“After” shows a point post an event or occurrence.||After the rain the sun will shine.|
|later||“Later” describes a point after an event, can be stand alone.||I will call him later|
|until||“Until” is used for a continuous event that stops at a particular time.||I won’t leave until the end of the lesson.|
|by||“By” refers to a discrete event that occurs before a specified time||I want to finish by Thursday.|
|As soon as||“As soon as” shows something that happened close to an event or occurrence has finished.||I left as soon as the shop closed.|
|as long as||“As long as” refers to a conditional period of time.||As long as i’m here, i am in charge|
If you would like the table in a printable form you can click the link below. English has more prepositions than most other languages. To make life more complicated, their meaning can change depending on the context. We will explore their uses below.
What Are The Three Most Used Time Prepositions In English?
It is difficult for many English users to learn how to use prepositions. Teaching the most often used ones first helps to break the process down. These three are;
When Is “In” Used As A Preposition?
The preposition “in” is used to indicate extended periods, such as
- A portion of the day – morning, afternoon, evening
- In May I will be at my grandmother’s house.
- My father died in 1996.
- The king reigned in the eighteenth century.
- I will go home in the summer.
- I will have a nap in the morning.
- This is the first time I have ridden a horse in years.
How Is The Preposition “At” Used?
The preposition “at” indicates an exact time. It may also be used for national or public holidays although this use is less common, and may be substituted with the preposition “during”.
- I will meet you at eight o’clock.
- I will leave at the stroke of midnight.
- Where will you be at Christmas?
Some exceptions to these prepositions of time include.
- It is freezing here at night.
- Where did you go at the weekend? This use is more common in particular dialects and British English. In American English, “on” would be used. Where did you go on the weekend?
neither of these are exact times but ”at” is stil label to be used.
When Is The Preposition “On” Used?
The preposition “on” is used for specific days or dates.
- On the second of June, I will finish my course.
- On my birthday I am going skydiving.
- Where will you go on New Year’s Day?
It is important to note that both “at” and “on” can be used for national holidays. This variation is influenced by dialect and differs between British English and American English.
What Prepositions Indicate a Specific Portion Of Time?
English has several prepositions that indicate a portion of time.
- “From … to” is used in the following way. From Christmas to Easter the shops are busy.
- The same sentence can also use “between.” Between Christmas and Easter, the shops are busy.
- “For” is used in the following manner: I waited for six hours or The train was delayed for three hours.
What are The Prepositions That Indicate The Passing Of Time?
The prepositions that indicate the passing of time in English are:
“Since” means that from some time in the past until now.
- Since the start of the decade, there have been nine births.
- I have been at work since yesterday
- i have been eating since i got here.
“During” indicates throughout the course or duration of a time period.
- During the summer, there were many trees planted.
- During World War I, many soldiers lost their lives.
- He ran away during the storm.
What Prepositions Indicate The Position In Time?
There are a few prepositions that reference a point in time in relation to a period of time. These can be considered prepositions that indicate the position in time.
“Before” is used for a point prior to an event or section of time. It references one point in time prior to another point in the past.
- I want to go to the bathroom before I leave.
- He ate dinner before he left for the the party.
- She woke up before sunrise.
“Ago” is similar to before, but it references a point in time prior to the current moment.
- I gave him money two weeks ago.
- It happened a long time ago.
- I lost my front teeth ten years ago.
“After” shows a point post an event or occurrence.
- We will leave after I have finished my dinner.
- He ran away after the fight.
- He was scared after he saw the accident.
“Later” has a similar meaning to after but is used as a stand-alone preposition.
- I will leave later.
- She broke her nose. Three weeks later, she broke her arm.
- I will do the washing up later.
“Until” is used for a continuous event that stops at a particular time.
- You must use the medicine until Thursday.
- Stay in bed until the end of the week.
- I won’t leave until it is over.
“By” refers to a discrete event that occurs before a specified time.
- Place your order by the 20th of the month.
- You have to hand in the assignment by Friday next week.
- I want it by the weekend.
“Before” and “by” are sometimes used interchangeably.
Some Other Prepositions
We have a couple more less common prepositions of time below, and if you need resources we have links below to help you teach as well.
“Past” and “to” are prepositions often forgotten when teaching English. They refer to the clock and description of an exact time. .
- It is ten past two.
- It is twenty to three.
- It is past your bedtime
“As soon as” is used to show something that happened immediately after or as soon as possible after an event or occurrence.
- I left as soon as I finished.
- I gave him medicine as soon as I realized he was sick.
- As soon as this is over we can go.
“As long as” refers to a conditional period of time.
- I ran for as long as I could.
- As long as they have these prices i will keep coming here.
- He was sick for as long as his sister.
English has numerous prepositions that can be used to indicate events in time. Many of them have exceptions to the rule, and some can be used in the place of others. As usual, English prepositions of time are a hodge-podge of eccentricities and subtleties that make learning them a challenge for second language English learners.