How to Use Prepositions of Time and Date in English

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If you're an English language learner, it's important that you learn how to use prepositions of time and date. Here are explanations for each of the most important prepositions of time and date. Each explanation includes examples to provide context.

In for Months, Years, Decades and Seasons

Use the preposition "in" for specific months, years and periods of time such as the seasons:

Sarah was born in January.
Her aunt was born in 1978.
Her great-grandmother was born in the 1920s.
I like to go skiing in winter.

The preposition "in" may also be used to refer to a period of time in the future:

My mother will be on vacation in a few weeks. 
I am going to see my best friend in a couple of days.

The phrase "in time" refers to having enough time to do something:

We arrived in time for the movie.
My friend Thomas finished the report in time for the conference.

At for Specific Times

The preposition "at" is used to refer to a precise time:

The movie starts at six o'clock. 
My father goes to bed at 10:30.
My last class ends at two p.m.

"At" is also used to refer to a period of time during the year such as special festivals:

I love the atmosphere at Cherry Blossom time. 
People tend to become more hopeful at springtime.

On for Specific Days

The preposition "on" is used to refer to the days of the week:

On Monday, I am taking my dog for a run. 
On Fridays, I get my hair done.

The preposition "on" may be used with specific calendar days as well:

on Christmas Day - On Christmas Day, my family goes to church. 
on October 22nd - On October 22nd, I am going to buy a new television.

The phrase "on time" refers to being at a location or completing a task by an expected time:

Make sure you come to work on time tomorrow. 
I managed to finish the report on time.

By with Times

The preposition "by" is used to express that something happens before the time expressed:

I will finish work by seven o'clock.
The director will have made his decision by the end of next week. 

In the Morning / Afternoon / Evening - At Night

While English speakers say "in the morning," "in the afternoon" or "in the evening," they do not say "in the night." Instead, they say "at night." It may not make sense, but it's an important rule to remember:

Our daughter usually does yoga in the morning.
I don't like to go out at night.
We used to play tennis in the afternoon. 

Before / After 

Use the prepositions "before" and "after" to state that something happens either before or after a specific time. You can use "before" and "after" with specific times, days, years, or months:

I'll see you after class.
She bought that house before 1995. 
I'll see you after June. 

Since / For

The prepositions "since" and "for" are used to express a length of time. "Since" is used with a specific date or time, "for" with a length of time:

We've lived in New York since 2021. 
I've been working for three hours. 
She's wanted to have that since December.
He worked for three five months to save up the money. 

Test Your Understanding

Provide the correct preposition to fill in the gaps:

  1. My friend usually has lunch _____ one o'clock.
  2. I promise you that I will finish the report _____ the end of next week.
  3. Do you like to go out _____ night?
  4. They have been studying _____ two hours. 
  5. Her birthday is _____ March.
  6. I'd like to have dinner _____ Saturday. Are you free?
  7. Alice was born in California _____ 1928.
  8. Don't you like the feeling in the air _____ festival time?
  9. They often watch the news _____ the evening. 
  10. We'll see each other again _____ three months' time. 
  11. Kevin will finish his class _____ April. 
  12. People spent a lot of time watching TV _____ the 1980s.
  13. I'm happy that I was able to make that decision _____ time.
  14. Don't worry if you arrive _____ seven o'clock, we'll hold a seat for you. 
  15. Alexander has worked in that position _____ 2014.

Answers:

  1. at
  2. by / before
  3. at
  4. for
  5. in
  6. on
  7. in
  8. at
  9. in
  10. in
  11. in
  12. in
  13. in / on 
  14. after
  1. since