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Prepositions of Time, Part 1

In an earlier post, Kate gave a helpful overview of the most common time-related prepositions in English. Her post looked not just at the meanings of these prepositions, but also at the grammar rules for them.

There are quite a few other prepositions of time that are less common, but still important. In this series of blog posts, we’ll look at a longer, more comprehensive list of prepositions of time in English. This list will be much longer than Kate’s earlier list, so I’ll just give use/meaning of each time preposition, without giving an in-depth look at grammar.

You’ll still get a chance to practice grammar, however. In a later post, I’ll give a review activity that focuses on grammar and use of these time-related prepositions.

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  • AT
    • Used for clock times: at 1pm, at 2:30
    • Used for timed events: at breakfast, at the annual meeting
    • Used to describe the immediate present: at present, at the moment
    • Used for days, but ONLY if the days are holidays: at Christmas, at thanksgiving, at Easter
    • Used in a handful of special expressions: at night, at the age of…
  • ON
    • Used with dates and days: on March 21, on Christmas, on Monday, on Sundays*
      • Make the day or date plural to describe a recurring weekly event.
  • IN
    • Used to describe phases of the day: in the afternoon, in the evening, in the night
    • Used to describe the amount of time that will pass before something happens in the future: It will be Christmas in 22 days. It will be Thursday in about 4 hours. It will be 8pm in 10 minutes.
    • Used with months, years, decades, and centuries: in March, in 1979, in the 70s, in the twentieth century
    • Used for weeks: in the third week of August, in the fourth week of Ramadan
    • Used to describe how long it takes for something to happen: I finished eating that sandwich in five minutes. I finished my Master’s Degree in 3 years.
  • FOR
    • Used to describe the duration of a specific time period: A year lasts for twelve months. Italy has been a democracy for seven decades
    • Used to describe the point at which a situation discontinues or stops: There will be daylight until around 5pm.
    • This is kind of the opposite of “until.” It describes when a situation started, instead of when it ended: It has been raining since this morning. Germany has been reunited since 1990.
    • Used to describe a larger time period in which an event occurs: Italy and America both had civil wars during the 19th He fell asleep during class.

In my next post on prepositions of time, we’ll look at from, to, before, after, through, within, inside, and outside. If you’re not quite sure how all of those words can describe time, don’t worry— you’ll find out soon. Stay tuned, Magooshers!

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