Time Prepositions Lesson
Free English Grammar Lessons Online
* What is a preposition?
What is a preposition of time?
How do I use prepositions of time?
Prepositions are parts of speech which indicate relationships between two words. These words are often close together. Prepositions come before (or precede) a noun or pronoun to show how that noun or pronoun is related to another word in the sentence. Prepositions of time, also known as time prepositions, are used to indicate how two words are related with regard to time.
Try the corresponding Time Preposition Free Online Multiple Choice Test
* What is a preposition?
A preposition is one of the eight parts of speech.
Prepositions show you how two words or phrases in a sentence are related to each other. For example, if I want to tell you where I’ve just put my cup, I could say: “My cup, the couch.” Now there’s an obvious word missing there. The sentence I’ve just spoken could mean that the cup is under the couch, on the couch, above the couch, in the couch (for example, hidden among the cushions), near the couch, behind the couch. Without prepositions, I can’t tell you where the cup really is. Without prepositions, we don’t know where anything is, when it happened, or how long ago it happened.
* What is a preposition of time?
A preposition of time describes when something happens by indicating how two words are related to each other. It’s important to realize that the preposition simply links or indicates relationships between two words or phrases.
To find out which word in the sentence is the preposition of time, look for words which tell you WHEN something is happening or for how long. Then look for the word between the event and when or for how long it’s happening or a word that links the event and the duration. The most common prepositions of time are in, on and at.
In the sentences below, the preposition of time has been underlined. The two words/phrases linked by the preposition are written in italics.
1. I wake at seven o’clock. (When do I wake? Seven. What’s linking ‘I wake’ and ‘seven o’clock?’ ‘At’.)
2. John hikes on Sundays. (John goes hiking. When? Sundays. What’s linking ‘hiking’ and ‘Sundays?’ ‘On’.)
3. My holidays are in December. (When are my holidays? December. What’s linking ‘my holidays’ and ‘December’? ‘In’.)
In the sentences above, the preposition is between the event and the phrase indicating time or duration. But it can also be placed before both the event and the phrase indicating time or duration. For example:
1. At seven o’clock, he awoke.
2. On Sundays, John hikes.
3. In December, I take my holidays.
Helpful tip: What the part of speech does is a better guide to identifying it than where it is in the sentence.
* How do I use prepositions of time?
The preposition ‘in’ is used with parts of the day, months, seasons and years.
Examples: In the morning, in winter, in 2016, in October.
‘On’ is used with dates or days.
Examples: On Friday, on the 14th of October.
‘At’ is used for exact times.
Examples: at noon, at 11:55am, at twilight.
While in, on and at are the most common prepositions of time, you will also come across others. These are words like after, before, between, ago, by, during, for, since, to, within etc. All of these link an event to a description of either duration or time.
By itself, the preposition doesn’t tell you anything. The preposition doesn’t tell you when something happened or for how long, but it does tell you how an event is linked to a description of time. The most common prepositions of time are in, on and at.