It’s Time to master Prepositions of Time.

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There's no easy way to say this but... prepositions are a nightmare. But don't worry I'm here to help with the rules for mastering the prepositions of time.

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There’s no easy way to say this but… prepositions are a nightmare. I’m not going to lie to you. There are a million different rules and even more exceptions. It can often feel like guesswork. You close your eyes and blindly choose a preposition, hoping that you are lucky this time, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

How to tackle prepositions

Students often tell me they have bought a grammar book and they are going to learn it all. Memorise every rule, situation and exception. While that might work for some people, for most of us that isn’t a good option for many reasons.

First, it takes too long. There is a huge amount of information you need to learn and that takes time. Second, you need to use it. If you spend all your “study” time focusing on learning new rules, you will miss the practice you need to make it stick by using it in conversation, writing example sentences or hearing it in a video. Which means going for the “all or nothing” approach is generally ineffective.

My advice? Tackle it one situation at a time. Prepositions (and their use) are often situational. Each situation uses a set of prepositions in a specific way. Learning them together as a group means they are easier to practice and memorise. That’s why I am focusing on prepositions of time today; at, in and on. To save you time (get it!?) and help you speak confidently.

What is a preposition?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a preposition is:

A word that is used before a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun, connecting it to another word.

Basically, they connect everything together. Joining ideas to create phrases. That’s why they are so important.

p.s. If you aren’t already using them then you need to start. It is the best online dictionary I have found. Great example sentences and recordings for pronunciation. Check it out!

Let’s start “At” the beginning

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When we are talking about a specific time we usually use “at” to connect it to the phrase. This includes times of day and mealtimes:

  • I went shopping at 10 o’clock
  • We have a meeting at 10:30
  • She eats lunch at noon/midday
  • They went to sleep at midnight
  • Let’s talk about it at lunchtime

We also use it to talk about holidays and breaks:

  • I always get a mountain of presents at Christmas
  • The children ate too much chocolate at Easter
  • We are going away at the weekend

Just “In” time

When you are thinking about a period of time where activity happens we normally use “in“:

  • Your birthday is in May
  • Italians go to the beach in summer
  • The flowers bloom in spring
  • I was born in 1990
  • It was acceptable in the 80s (to talk about a decade)
  • The dinosaurs all died in the ice age.

The most common examples are for the periods of the day:

  • I wake up in the morning
  • She works in the afternoon
  • They relax in the evening

Just be careful! There is always one little exception…

  • We always read together at night

“On” a day

When we talk about a day we always use “on“. This is one of the most useful expressions of time you will learn. If you memorise nothing else from this article, this is my golden rule. That’s because it’s used for the past, future, and speaking generally.

  • I went to the shops on Monday (the nearest Monday in the past)
  • I’m going to go to the shops on Monday (the nearest Monday in the future)
  • I go shopping on Mondays (in general)

One structure and three different uses. That is the kind of phrase you need in your arsenal. Versatile, flexible and simple!

Get “On” with it

We are almost “on” the home stretch now, don’t worry. We also use “on” for dates and specific parts of a day:

  • I watched the news on Monday morning
  • They were playing video games on Friday afternoon
  • The couple sat and watched a film on Sunday evening
  • It’s the mayor’s birthday on 26th October

“This”, “Last” and “Next”. What you need to know.

Don’t get caught out! When we use “this“, “last” or “next” with any time, there is no preposition. Never!

  • She has a lot of meetings next Monday
  • We had a catch up last Wednesday
  • I am really busy this week
  • I got married this year

The timing of these is very important though. Using these prepositions with a day is always related to the respective week. Even if it is in the past!

  • I had an Italian lesson last Monday (Monday last week)
  • You have an Italian lesson this Monday (Monday this week)
  • They will have an Italian lesson next Monday (Monday next week)

My Handy Guide

To help you practice this, I have created a guide with all these rules presented for you. Print it out, stick it on your wall and you can use it for reference whenever you get stuck. I have even included some exercises so you can practice. The answers are all on the final page, but no cheating!

Just click the link to download your FREE copy now!

Now you have everything you need to tackle prepositions of time with confidence. If there are any other topics you would like me to cover let me know in the comments below or get in touch.

Until next time!

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