Prepositions of time

Daisy is at home. She has a note for Sophie from the headmaster …


As you watch the video, look at the examples of prepositions of time. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, prepositions of time correctly.


Daisy: Hi, Mum, How's it going?

Sophie: Fine thanks, honey. How was school?

Daisy: Good. I've got a note for you from Mr Oliveira.

Sophie: Who's Mr Oliveira? Your Portuguese teacher?

Daisy: I don't study Portuguese, Mum. You know that.

Sophie: True. But you could. It's a very useful language. They speak it in Brazil ...

Daisy: Mum, he's the new headmaster at college. And he isn't Portuguese – or Brazilian. He's British. But I think he said his parents are from Goa.

Sophie: Goa? Wow. The headmaster ... Ah yes, I remember him. I met him at Christmas when I went to your school for that concert. In December, anyway. A very nice man, yes.

Daisy: Mum ...

Sophie: It would be good to speak to him about his parents' country. I could interview him, then visit Goa in summer … no, too hot maybe ... in autumn ...

Daisy: Well, he'd like to see you again too.

Sophie: Really?

Daisy: He wants you to go into school on Monday or Tuesday next week.

Sophie: Oh? Have you done something wrong?

Daisy: No, of course not! You know me. He wants to ask if you can give a talk about your work and your blog, your travels, that sort of thing. One day in April, during Careers Week.

Sophie: So on Monday or Tuesday? What time?

Daisy: In the afternoon or in the early evening. At 5 o'clock, if you can.

Sophie: Hmm. I can go at half past four on Tuesday, if that's OK.

Daisy: I'll ask.

Sophie: Let me see. I'm away in Moscow for three days in April ... but during your school holidays, I think. I'm going to Russia to write about traditions at Easter – oh, and then I'm away again at the end of the month. But I'm at home for two or three weeks. I can't go on Monday evening, because I have a tai chi class, and then I have to work at night. I have a video call at midnight ... Yes, definitely. I'll go in on Tuesday afternoon.

Daisy: Can you write a note or send him an email, please?

Sophie: I'll phone him during the day tomorrow. I'm free for a few hours in the morning.

Daisy: OK, I'll tell him. Where are you?

Sophie: Here in town. I'm at the travel agent's. I'm chatting to your friend Jenna – I hadn't seen her for months! I didn't know she was working here; she's organising my flights to Russia. Do you want to speak to her? 

Daisy: No, it's OK, I'll see her at the weekend. We're going to a party on Saturday night.

Sophie: OK, well I'll be home in about an hour – at about 7 o'clock probably. Pizza and a DVD tonight?

We use many different prepositions for talking about time. Here we are looking at: in, on, at, during and for.

We use in, on and at for lots of different times. Here’s a table comparing the uses:

in on at

Months: in January / in April
Seasons: in spring / in winter
Years: in 1984 / in 2015
Centuries: in the 20th century
Times of day: in the morning / in the evening
Longer periods of time: in the past / in the 1990s / in the holidays

Days of the week: on Monday
Days + parts of days: on Tuesday afternoon / on Saturday mornings
Dates: on November 22nd
Special days: on my birthday / on New Year’s Eve


Clock times: at 7.30 a.m. / at 5 o’clock
Festivals: at Christmas / at Easter
Exceptions: at night / at the weekend

Wow! That’s a lot of uses! So I have to learn all those?

Yes, but you probably know most of them, don’t you?

Yes, maybe … Is that all of them? I mean, are there any exceptions?

Well, sometimes we don’t use a preposition of time, for example after next/this/last/every.

We go skateboarding every Saturday afternoon.
I’ll see you next Friday.

Mm, but I could also say: “I’ll see you on Friday.”

Oh yes, that's fine too. But we often leave out on with days of the week when we’re speaking.

I’ll see you Friday.

OK. Now, about dates ... You write “on 8th July” but how do you say that?

Good question! We say “on the eighth of July”.

OK, so I have to remember to say “on THE eighth OF July”.


One last question about in. Can I use it for the future, as in “I’ll do it in a minute”?

Yes, that’s very common. We use in for talking about something in the future a certain length of time from now.

She’ll be back in a moment.                                                                 
We’re going away in two weeks.

And can I say, “We’re going away for two weeks”?

Yes, but the meaning is completely different.

We’re going away in two weeks.  (= we leave two weeks from now)
We’re going away for two weeks. (= our holiday will be two weeks long)

Ah, and what about “We’re going away during two weeks”?

No, you can’t say that. We use for + a length of time, to say how long something goes on for, and during + a noun / noun phrase, to say when something happens.

It snowed for three hours.
It snowed during the night.

OK, that’s a useful rule. But, hang on, I can also say “It snowed in the night”.

Yes, absolutely.

And: “I did a lot of work in the holidays” or “I did a lot of work during the holidays”?

Yes, you’ve got the hang of this.

Good, so now I’m going to study for a few hours. I’ll see you on Tuesday, in the morning, at about 10 o’clock.

See you at some time during the morning!



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Submitted by Jonathan - Coo… on Thu, 02/15/2018 - 07:32

Hi Srilal. 'For' often shows some kind of purpose or goal for the activity. 'To' can also have that meaning with a verb (e.g. She went to the library to study) but in your examples 2 and 4, 'to' comes with a noun. In these cases, 'to' simply shows movement in that direction. So, all the sentences are possible, but I think number 4 is more commonly used than number 3. :) Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

In reply to by Srilal

Submitted by Srilal on Thu, 02/08/2018 - 03:20

Dear Sir or Madam I kindly request you to make this clear. That is your statement: it snowed for three hours. ( How long somthing goes on) Is it alright to use present perfect instead of simple past. For eg It has snowed for three hours. Are both of these alright to use? Is it depend on the context (situation)? For eg. It snowed for three hours yesterday. Thank you. Regards
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Submitted by Jonathan - Coo… on Thu, 02/08/2018 - 03:59

Hi Srilal. Yes, both are grammatically correct but the meaning is a bit different because of the different tense. So it depends on the context, as you say.

It snowed for three hours. (past simple)

This is totally in the past. This tense is often used with a past time reference (e.g. 'It snowed for three hours last night / yesterday / on Thursday').

It has snowed for three hours. (present perfect simple)

This is somehow related to the present (the moment when you are speaking). It may be because it is snowing right now (it started snowing three hours ago and it hasn't stopped yet).

But for this meaning, it's much more common to use the present perfect continuous since that tense focuses on the length of time.

It has been snowing for three hours. (present perfect continuous)

Does that make sense?

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)


In reply to by Srilal

Submitted by Srilal on Sun, 02/11/2018 - 08:28

Hi Jonathan Thank you very much for your answer about Past simple and present perfect. Please help me in this, too. The road is wet. It has rained. / It has been raining. Both these sentences mean at the moment it is not raining. I am I correct? If this is correct one can use both these tences for something which has recently stopped. But If one says: It has rained for two hours./ It has been raining for two hours. Both mean at the moment also it is raining. I am I correct? Please help. Thank you. Regards

In reply to by Jonathan - Coo…

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Submitted by Jonathan - Coo… on Sun, 02/11/2018 - 14:43

Hi Srilal. You are right, both of your sentences and both tenses mean that at the moment, it is not raining. However, 'It has been raining', can mean that it is raining right now, especially with a 'for ... hours/days' time phrase (e.g. 'It has been raining for two hours, and it hasn't stopped yet').

So, don't just look at the 'it has been raining' part, since the rain may or may not be finished. The context will help you understand whether the action has stopped or is continuing. 

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

In reply to by Srilal

Submitted by Srilal on Tue, 02/06/2018 - 09:00

Dear Sir I want to make sure the following sentences are right or wrong. Please help me. Either you sister or brothers have come. Neither your sister nor your brothers have come. Nether your sister nor your brothers has come. I think the last one is not correct Please let me know. Thank you. Regards
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Submitted by Jonathan - Coo… on Tue, 02/06/2018 - 10:36

Hi Srilal. You're right, the last one is not correct. The first and second one are correct (apart from a small error in the first one - change you to your), although their meanings are very different.

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

In reply to by Srilal

Submitted by Srilal on Sat, 02/03/2018 - 11:18

Dear Sir Please help me in this. Let me know both are correct or not. If they are correct, is there a difference .? They flew to Canada. They flew for Canada. Thank you. Regards
Profile picture for user Tina - Coordinator

Submitted by Tina - Coordinator on Sat, 02/03/2018 - 18:44

Hi Srilal!
Your first sentence is correct - They flew to Canada.
Best wishes, Tina (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

In reply to by Srilal

Submitted by Srilal on Fri, 02/02/2018 - 05:11

Dear Sir Please let me know I am right or wrong. Clases are held on Sundays. Classes are held every Sunday Classes are held on Sunday. Are all the above correct or some which ones are thay? Thank you. Regards
Profile picture for user Jonathan - Coordinator

Submitted by Jonathan - Coo… on Fri, 02/02/2018 - 11:47

Hi Srilal. All of these are correct and they mean the same thing. Well done :)

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

In reply to by Srilal

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