English prepositions: These tiny words are so important! But they can be a little confusing at times too, right?
In this video, Emma explains how to use them when giving information about TIME.
CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.
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Hello! This is Emma from mmmEnglish, back with another lesson on the mmmEnglish YouTube channel.
Now a few weeks ago I made a video lesson using articles in English. If you missed it, you can watch it up here. But in that video, I said that articles are one of the biggest problems for English students because they are the cause of so many grammar mistakes!
And it's true! As a University English teacher, I saw these mistakes all the time!
But coming very close behind mistakes with articles are mistakes with prepositions. Now, prepositions are words like these:
There are many of them in English and like articles, prepositions are difficult to understand. Sometimes the reasons why you should choose one over another, it's not really obvious. And sometimes there are exceptions and differences depending on who you actually talk to – whether they speak American English or British English.
So what's the secret to these prepositions?
How can you possibly know when and how to use them properly?
Well, the answer might not be one that you like. There's no simple rule, there's no one answer.
Prepositions need to be learnt in context with the other words that they're used with. Trying to understand why we say “in the car” and “on the bus” will only end in tears and frustrations!
By learning the phrase “in the car” together, all together, will make it easier to remember it and also to get it right every time. You're not thinking about which preposition but you're remembering the phrase. All of the words together.
Now last week I talked about these prepositions: in, on, at and by. But all when they're used to talk about place or the position of something.
Let's meet at the library.
He's in the kitchen.
I'll see you on the bus.
He's waiting by the car.
If you missed that lesson, you can catch it up here.
But today we're going to focus on these same prepositions but for when they give information about time.
I'll be there in five minutes.
I'll meet you at 3pm on Thursday.
We need to be there by noon.
So first, let's go over the main points that we need to remember.
“At” is used in reference to specific times on the clock or points of time in the day.
“In” usually refers to period of time.
And “on” is used with dates and named days of the week.
And “by” is used specifically with an end point of time and it means no later than.
Let's start with “at”. Use “at” for very specific times. Clock times for example.
The train arrives at 3:30.
The party starts at midnight.
The meeting will finish at 5:30.
I'll be there at noon or at midday / at dawn / at dusk.
All of these words refer to specific time but we can also use “at” with other specific times of the day, like:
He doesn’t like driving at night.
I’m going shopping at lunchtime.
I read my daughter a story at bedtime.
Let’s talk about it at dinner (time) tonight.
So there, I just called the time dinner. It's not the meal name there, I'm using the time.
We'll talk about it at dinner time, tonight. (But often it's not spoken)
One thing that you must be careful about is with morning, afternoon, evening and night.
We say “at night” but for all of these other times of the day we say:
“in the morning”
“in the afternoon”
“in the evening”
And don't forget the article as well, right?
Now there's also some really common fixed expressions that use the preposition “at” – when you're referring to a specific point in time.
She's working at the moment.
So when you're talking about an action that is happening around the present moment, you're not using “in the moment” – all the Italians out there!
In the moment, I'm working on a very interesting project. NO!
It's “at the moment”.
At the moment, I'm working on a very interesting project.
She's a little busy at present, can I get her to call you back?
It's quite formal but “at present” means at this time.
I finish the course at the end of April.
So “at the end of” or “at the start of” a period of time is also a common way to refer to a specific point in time.
Note that if you say something happened in the middle of a period of time, you need to use the preposition “in”. But I'll talk more about that in a moment.
We arrived at the same time.
So we use “at the same time” to say that two separate actions happened simultaneously – at one time.
Okay let's talk about the preposition “in”. “In” is used for periods of time, so seasons or months or even longer periods of time like centuries or decades or years.
I was born in 1986.
He'll visit them in October.
The ski resort is closed in summer.
He grew up in the seventies. That's the period of time between 1970 and 1980.
It happened in the 16th century.
Don't worry, it all happened in the past.
Just as we use “in” for periods of time we also use it for periods of time during the day when we're not being specific. So…
They're leaving in the evening.
The baby sleeps in the afternoon.
I work most productively in the morning.
But compare this to:
I start work at 9am.
So there's specific time and there's kind of general time. We can also use “in” to describe the amount of time needed to do something. So again, we're talking about a period of time. A period of time.
They managed to complete the job in two weeks.
You can drive around the island in a day.
We can also use “in” to explain when something will happen in the future.
I'll be ready in five minutes.
He's gone away but he'll be back in a couple of days.
You can collect your parcel in a week.
Now remember I told you earlier that if you're using the expression at the end of or at the start of something you need to use the preposition “at”.
At the start of July.
Return it to me at the end of the day.
But, if you're referring to the middle of a period of time your preposition needs to be “in”, “in the middle”.
In the middle of June.
It's too hot to go out in the middle of the day.
Okay, here's another really common fixed expression. “In time” – You'll hear it all the time!
We made it in time.
Luckily, we arrived just in time.
This means that you weren't late or you arrived just before the event started.
Don't confuse this with “on time” which is another fixed expression.
Please arrive on time.
This means at the starting time, not later. If you're told to arrive on time, don't be late!
The teacher told them to arrive on time.
And even though they slept in, they arrived just in time!
Now let's explore more about this preposition now. In English we can use this preposition for specific descriptions of time. Most commonly with days of the week and parts of the week.
She's working on Monday. That's a specific and a unique time.
She usually works on Mondays. By using the plural form there, I'm suggesting that this is a regular event. It happens every week.
We're going to the theatre on Wednesday evening.
Let's have a coffee on Friday morning.
It's his birthday on Saturday.
So note that in spoken English “on” is often omitted in context like this:
She's working Monday.
So don't be confused if suddenly when someone says a sentence like this you can't hear the preposition. In spoken English, it's often dropped.
“On” is also used with dates.
The interview is on the 29th of April.
He was born on February 14th.
It's also used with special days.
She was born on Valentine's Day.
We're moving house on Christmas Eve.
I have an exam on my birthday.
But here's another little exception that you need to keep in mind. When you're talking about festivals and about special periods of time, you can use “at”.
Are you going home at Christmas?
So that's talking about the time around Christmas.
If you're referring to the specific day, you need to use “on”.
On Christmas Day.
On New Year's Eve.
What are you doing on New Year's Day?
What are you doing at New Year's?
Now this question is more general, you're referring to the period of time around this holiday – usually there is a few days where everyone's not working and they're relaxing and hanging out so “on Year's Day” means specifically that day.
But if you say “at New Year's” you just mean the time around that day.
Another fixed expression that can be a little bit confusing is “at/on the weekend”
What are you doing on the weekend? is more common in American English.
What are you doing at the weekend? is more common in British English.
But either way, you'll be understood. Both of them mean the same thing. But it's good to know that there are two different ways to express this.
And lastly, “by”. Our last little preposition is very useful to give information about time. You can use “by” with the end time of an activity.
The show should be finished by 9pm.
It means no later than. So when it's used with a specific time, it can mean on or before that time.
Please return these books by Friday.
That means no later than Friday.
So let's recap. Let's go over everything that we learnt in this lesson because it was a lot to take in!
- “At” is generally used in reference to specific times on the clock or points of time in the day.
- “In” generally refers to longer periods of time.
- “On” is used with dates and named days.
- “By” is used with times and named days of the week, but specifically, telling us an end time.
Well that's it for this lesson! I hope that it's been good revision for you to remind yourself about the correct way to use these really common English prepositions that give more information about time.
Now if you've got any questions at all, put them in the comments below and I will try to answer them as soon as I can.
If you really love the mmmEnglish Channel and you enjoy my lessons, then please make sure you subscribe just here or here. And check out some of the other lessons that I've prepared. This playlist here is full of grammar videos and this one here will help you to practice your speaking skills.
Thanks for watching and I will see you in the next lesson. Bye for now!
mmmEnglish Video Lessons are a series of video lessons created to build confidence in English learners and focus on English in daily life. Download them and watch them anywhere! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to get my new videos, and come and say hi on my Facebook page!!
Hi…. Excelent the lesson. I finally understood.
Congratulations pretty teacher, on your pedagogy.
At 6 pm this evening or at 6 pm today or at 6 o'clock this evening is right to say
Yes those are all correct ways to use ‘at' with time!
He will probably arrive —– 6 o`clock in/on/at/by
I will be coming to your house at/by 4 o clock
By use for time end an activities so u could use by that is right one
At the end of the lesson or
By the end of the lesson
Which one is more appropriate?
At the end …
Just wondering to use ‘in the future’ or ‘for the future’
Exuberant methodology. Felt ecstatic. Thank you.
it was really helpful, i will revise it again by weekend.
Great1 The more you practise and revise, the better!
It’s really hard to concentrate in what you’re teaching because you are so pretty, you have a beautiful eyes
I found it very helpful. Thanks.can you provide us with questions to test ourselves please?
You are a great and kind teacher with having a wonderful accent and attractable body language.
Which one is correct
On that time or
At that time
‘at that time' is the correct one 🙂
ooo tq ma'am
I have a sentence:
We work by day and sleep at night.
Is the sentence correct? If “yes” then why do we put “by” before day but not “on”, while “on” indeed sounds good?
At that time
I received the station. I will call you
God gives you great talent! I enjoy your lesson (and your smile, of course). Thanks
Thank you, Pieters!
I am Alaeddien from Algeria , i like your videos , but you can writ some Exersices when you finished your lessonse.
please you can give me your Personal Email.
Thanks for this. What does this mean please?
Please apply by noon (US Eastern time) on September 15, 2020.
Your teaching method is really great. It was really helpful for me. And also i will wonder if you explain about TO and FOR, please.
Thank you, Emma!
It is very nice of u as u have given a valuable advice.Please tell how to get more information about English grammar.Below is my email I'd please do tell.
Which one is correct
We have to go in 5 minutes
We have to go by 5 minutes
The hen is _ the basket.Tell me plz which preposition use in this sentence.
It's good information… but here you given more time based examples.
Peeter saved ‘by' John.
Travelling on Bus, by walk, and on foot. like these can you give more information Mam..?
Hi Akhil, please check out my video on prepositions of place here 🙂
Is it correct to say: “As per our record, it depicts that your Microenterprise loan was matured on May 5, 2018.”? Instead of using last May 5, 2018, is it still grammatically correct?
I'll need them by Saturday,is that correct?
Always interested in your teachings. THANKS
Thank you Evelyn!
Is it correct 5 pm to 6pm
Yes you can say ‘5pm to 6pm' 🙂
Wow really it's great.
I had a little bit of confusion about preposition. But now it's fully clear to me.
Thanks a lot to you.
You're welcome, Mahabuba! Thanks for leaving a comment 🙂
Hi, may I know which is correct, “have not eaten in days” or “have not eaten for days”? Or both are correct? Thank you.
I hope you are my English teacher
Can you teach me through Skype?
Hi Tan! I don't teach private lessons but you can join my online courses here 🙂
thanks for the valuable data.
all described here very clearly.
I would like to know what is correct?
Do you say, “i do not have much time on me
or rather i do not have much time for me. So its about preposition for and on.
For instance when one is resquesting the other for a hand or help.
Thanks ….that instruction very useful .
I had a hard time explaining this:
It takes 10 minutes to get there.
We can get there in 10 minutes.
I should appreciate it if you could complete this work by Thursday.
why here is used “by” please tell me
That means the work must be completed at or before Thursday 🙂
What is the time by your watch or in your watch?
The Police investigated a/ into the case b/ but could find no useful clues. C/ no error d/
Please tell me answer of this question.
Which preposition will be used in place of Into?
You are great mam
I Love you
Mere saath sex karogi
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge to everyone teacher. I really like the way you teach English. You made me inspired a lot to pursue my dreams to be a teacher. Thank you once again teacher Emma
I want to know the difference usage between on that day and at that day like when can we use on that day and when can we use at that day or only one of the usage is right or like that. Thank you. I look forward to your reply.
Pls teach me or can you tell me or us how to make a sentence very easy
Hi is this correct?
I have a reservation today in room XXX, and my guest will arrive today 6:00 PM at XXX Terminal 2.
Simple,and nice teaching
You are great! I love your lessons.
Thank you Fokhruddin!
Hi dear i am still confused in the use of preposition ‘in' and ‘at' can any one guide me or send me some other rules of their usage. contact with me on my E-mail. please
I'm not sure if it's related but I'd like to ask how I can write a deadline with a specific time indicated. Is “Submission is until 11:59 PM of September 30” right? Thank you!
The report will be ready in/after two weeks, kinldy tell me the correct answer for the above, or we can use both for the particular sentence
Both are correct but with different meanings.
In two weeks = the report will be ready two weeks later. It could be ready before two weeks but no later than two weeks (not after two weeks)
After two weeks = the report will be ready after two weeks has passed.
I'll be at the library between 4 to 6 pm.
—is there any grammatical errors in this sentence? and which is it?
I will be ready_____the time you get here.
What preposition shall we use here ?
Please explain with details.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Thanks, this lesson is great. I listened couple of your lessons and they were very simple and clear to understand and make the difference.
on the last seconds of this video you mentioned couple of links, but they didn't show.
Do you mean my playlist of other grammar lessons? You can find it here!
What should we say
Bus will drop you in the off timings or bus will drop you at the off timings ?
Which sentence is correct?
I will meet you on Monday at 2:30 pm. It's a correct sentence or not?
Yes, that's correct! Nice work Syed!
Wow . Thanks I have learnt a lot
At the end of an event, do you say: see you at the next event, or see you on the next event, or see you in the next event?
You could say:
See you at the next event
See you at in the next event
(Both are acceptable and correct!)
nice work. I was expecting more like “with” using time etc.I have seen many more some sites like https://ectipakistan.com/. and https://grammarly.com/ and how would we use those as preposition. need your help.
I subscribed to you on youtube because the contents of your vlogs were really helped me in terms of developing my communication skills. And definitely helpful. #fromPhilippine#subscriber
ecellent work but i have a question on time or in time
I think there is another preposition we use to give information about time: “within”. We use it to specify the time we have available to complete a task or we're going to take to complete it but we could finish before it ends up. For instance:
I'll finish my report by Friday
I'll finish my report within two days (that's different from “in two days”)
I have a question..
Which is correct by 5.30 p.m. tomorrow or tomorrow by 5.30p.m.?
Both are correct 🙂
Hello 🙂 teacher
What is the right sentence?
People on tiktok or people at tiktok
They're both correct but have slightly different meanings.
People on Tiktok = refers to people who are users of Tiktok
People at Tiktok = refers to people who work for the company, Tiktok
Thanks, I managed to follow up on the training and I promise by Friday I will cover everything.