Prepositions of Time

9.1 Usage: At, On, In:

These prepositions are used to show the time and date of events, activities and situations:
e.g. at three o'clock. in June. on Monday.

9.2 Structure: At:

at + particular time: dawn, midday, noon, night, midnight, nine o'clock etc.. e.g. at dawn.

at + the + a particular time in a week/month/year: start/end of the week/month/year, weekend. e.g. at the start of July.

at + calendar festival season: Christmas, New Year, Easter etc.. e.g. at Easter.

at + meal: breakfast, lunch, mid-morning, tea, dinner, supper etc.. e.g. at breakfast.

9.3 Structure: On:

on + day of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc. e.g. on Thursday.

on + particular part of a day: Friday morning, Saturday afternoon. e.g. on Sunday evening.

on + particular date: 25 July 2001, 4 January. e.g. on 19 March.

N.B. On the nineteenth of March is how this date is read aloud or said in conversation.

on + calendar festival day: Christmas Day, Palm Sunday. e.g. on Easter Sunday.

9.4 Structure: In:

in + the + a part of a day: the morning, the afternoon, evening. e.g. in the afternoon.

in + month: January, February, March, April, May etc.. e.g. in June.

in + season of the year: Spring, Summer, Autumn. e.g. in Winter.

in + specific year: 1988, 1989, 1990 etc.. e.g. in 1999.

in + the + a specific century: nineteenth century. e. g. in the twentieth century.

in + historical period of time: the Dark Ages, Pre-historic Times. e.g. in the Middle Ages.

N.B. No preposition is used if the day/year has each, every, last, next, this before it:

e.g. I go to England every Christmas ( not at every Christmas )

I'll see you next Monday afternoon. ( not on Monday afternoon )

Martin left home last evening. ( not in the evening )

9.5 Usage: For and Since:

These prepositions explain how long an event, activity, situation has continued:

e.g. for three days since last Thursday

9.6 Structure: For:

for + a period of time: two days, one week, three months, four years e.g. for the weekend.

This phrase can be used with all verb tenses.

e.g. Michael went to Latvia last year for three weeks. - past

I am in Poznan for ten days. - present

My cousin will be visiting the West Indies for two months next February. - future


9.7 Structure: Since:

since + a point of time + past tense: last week, the war ended, 1990, yesterday.

The point of time does not have to be accurate.

e.g. My sister and her husband have worked in India since 1991.

Arek has been very ill since yesterday evening.

9.8 Usage: During and While:

These prepositions explain a period of time in which an event, activity or situation took place:

e.g. during the next month while I was swimming.

9.9 Structure: During:

during + a noun or phrase: the war, the nineteenth century: e.g. during my schooldays. This phrase can be used with all verb tenses: past, present, future.

e.g. Magda received many telephone messages during the last week. - past

I am seeing Simon during the morning. - present

Winston will return to England during the Christmas Holiday. - future

9.10 Structure: While:

while + subject + verb: to eat, talk, swim, walk etc.... This clause can be used with all verb tenses: past, present, future

e.g. We will take you to the theatre while we are in London.

While Joanna was in Spain, she didn't go to a bull fight.

N.B. In English, While can often be replaced by when and retain the same meaning.

while + infinitive + -ing (Present Participle): thinking, running, driving etc..

e.g. While swimming in the sea, Hania was attacked by a shark.

Ela met Andrew while studying English at Oxford.

9.11 Usage: Before and After:

These prepositions explain accurately the timing of an event, activity or situation:

e.g. before the weekend after the holiday

9.12 Structure: Before:

before + a noun: Monday, Christmas, examinations etc.. e.g. before the weekend.

before + subject + verb: to eat, study, swim, talk. etc.. All verb tenses can be used.

e.g. He spoke to his teacher before the examination began.

Before you say anything, I must explain why I am here.

before + infinitive + -ing (Present Participle): to read, write etc.. e.g. before eating.


9.13 Structure: After:

after + noun: the lesson, the meal etc. e.g. after the journey

after + subject + verb: to draw, sit, read etc.. All verb tenses can be used:

e.g. Patricia was very happy after she won the tennis match.

Why did the Queen smile after the President shook her hand?

After she finishes her studies, Ann will work in Poland.

after + infinitive + -ing (Present Participle): to decide, say, report etc.. e.g. after crying.

9.14 Usage: By, until, till:

These prepositions describe a time limit for commencement/completion of an activity.
e.g. by Sunday until April 1995 till next week

By means not later than and can be used with all verb tenses.

Until/till explains how long an activity continues, will continue or has continued and can be used with all verb tenses.

N.B. Until/till have the same meaning: till is a short form of until.

9.15 Structure: By:

by + noun describing time/date: examples: this afternoon, tomorrow, Thursday.
e.g. Please pay me by Friday morning.

Will you finish your work by four o'clock?

By the end of the year, Donata spoke English very well.


9.16 Structure: Until, till:

until/till + noun describing time/date: examples: next week, this evening, tomorrow.
e.g. Tom's wife will stay here until/till the end of next week.

Until/till the end of the month, you can use my computer.

The Williams Family lived in Germany until/till 1991.

9.17 Usage: From - - - - to/until:

From . . . . . to/until defines the beginning and end of a period of time, present, past or future:
e.g. from April 1989 to July from November until March

9.18 Structure: From - - - - - to/until/till:

From + time/day/date/year to + time/day/date/year and can be used with all verb tenses.

e.g. From 1987 until 1991, Mary was at university in Leeds.

Each day, Arthur works in the bank from nine till five thirty.

My shop will be closed from 1st July to 31st August.

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