Prepositions of Time

Prepositions are definitely one of the trickiest parts of the English language and can be extremely frustrating to English language learners. When writing, you can take the time to double check how you use prepositions and get comfortable using the correctly with some basic rules that simplify when they are used. In this sense, time is used either related to time as it is measured on a clock, or time as it is measured on a calendar. In these circumstances, the most commonly used prepositions of time are IN, AT and ON.

So when do we use in vs. at vs. on?

IN AT ON
General Time Specific Time Specific Dates
General Dates “Night”
Future Quantity of Time

Let’s look at some examples…

IN

The preposition “in” is used when looking at general chunks of time. Think of a calendar or a clock. If you are talking about a portion of the calendar or clock that is larger than its individual unit of measurement (a day or an hour/minute) you use “in.”

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General Time

  • Time of day: In the morning/afternoon/evening/night…
  • Time of year: In Spring/Winter/Summer/Fall…

General Date

  • Year: In 2016…
  • Month: In May…
  • Week: In the third week of May…

The exception to this description of using “in” for general chunks of time is with the example below. Notice how this use of “in” only relates to a future time. This is indicated by using the word “will.”

Future Quantity of Time

  • In 5 minutes, the show will start.
  • I will meet you outside your house in 3 hours.
  • I will be done in a minute.

AT

clock-1196246Now if you zoom in and look at time as it relates to the clock, we use “at” to talk about a specific time

  • Hours: The concert starts at 7pm.
  • Minutes: At 6:37am everyday, the rooster crows.
  • Point in Time of Day: Cinderella had to run home at midnight.
  • Activity Time of Day: We met at lunchtime to discuss the problem.

A confusing instance where both in and at can be used is with night. It is correct both to say:

  • She woke up when she heard a noise in the night.
  • She could not sleep because of the sound of crickets at night.

The difference is comes from when the action occurred. “In the night” is more poetic and often refers to something happening in the middle of the night at a specific instance (a noise). “At night” is then used more generally, to refer to something happening (the sound of crickets) during the whole night. This is the opposite of the usual use of in for general and at for specific.


ONcalendar-1-1588745

Lastly, there is the preposition, “on,” which we use when talking about specific dates. This time, zoom in on the calendar to know when to use “on.”

  • Days of the Week: On Tuesdays, she goes to English class.
  • Dates: The last time she saw her cousin was on June 30th (or on the 30th of June).
  • Holidays: Have you seen the big parade in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day?

Can you use all 3 in one sentence? Here are some examples:

  • On Valentine’s Day, in 2005, she met her date at 6pm for dinner.
  • In Spring, he went to a concert, on March 21st , at noon.
  • She is going to call on Wednesday at 10pm, which is in exactly 24 hours.

Check out this dominoes game from Teach-This.com to test your understanding create some more sentences!

How do you remember the differences between in, at and on? Tell us in a comment!

Happy Writing!

7 Tips for How to Edit Your Writing

Did someone forget to proofread?

Did someone forget to proofread?

Proofreading is one of the most vital or important parts of the writing process. A piece of writing, free of errors, is the optimal accomplishment. Knowing how to edit is important to effectively communicating as a writer. For example…

You can be reading a fascinating piece of work. Then, their’s a typo. Amistake. It ruins the credibility of the writer, and the reader experience. Can you spot the mistakes?

Try these 7 tips for how to edit you writing:

  1. Look at work as a whole – Concentrate first on the organization, focus and theme of your writing. Before editing sentence structure, make sure your writing has the message you want to convey.
  2. Set it aside– Don’t try to proofread as soon as you finish a draft. Walk away from the draft for at least 15 minutes before attempting to edit. This way, you can clear your mind a bit and come back with fresher eyes.
  3. Print out your writing– Reading on a computer screen is difficult. It boggles my mind that Kindles are such a huge success; a paperback book is always my preference! For the eyes, it’s often less straining to read from a piece of paper. When you print out your work, use a red pen to correct mistakes or adjust wording so that you can notice your corrections immediately.
  4. Read the text aloud– Try to read each word as it is written on the page, not what you THINK you wrote. You thought of the sentence, “The dog is fluffy.” You actually wrote “The dog s fluffy.” You know what you are trying to say and may read the second sentence as “The dog is fluffy.” Reading slowly and paying attention to each word will help catch mistakes.
  5. Have someone else look at your work- A second pair of eyes is an amazing tool to use when proofreading. The outside reader can provide valuable feedback if something doesn’t make sense to them. It could be a word, a sentence or an idea. It will be clear to you as the writer, but an outsider who has general knowledge of your topic should also be able to understand your writing.
  6. Use a dictionarySale and sail. They are both words that are spelled correctly. However, if I wrote “The 50 percent off sail was amazing,” spell check will not (and did not) catch that mistake. It should be “The 50 percent off sale was amazing.” A dictionary is a fantastic tool to use in instances when you are unsure if a store’s promotion is a sail or a sale.
  7. Proofreading ChecklistMake a personal checklist– From previous writing, you will know what types of mistakes you typically make. Pay special attention to those. Is it forgetting a period at the end of a sentence? Maybe homonyms (to, too, two) are your downfall. Making a list and checking specifically for those mistakes will greatly help eradicate them from your writing.

Do you use a proofreading technique not included in this list? Let us know!

We love to proofread 🙂 Need a second editor? Start writing with ESL Write Away today!

By Ally Evans