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English, French, and Math Support: Prepositions of time

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Prepositions of time

IN, ON, and AT

These three prepositions are used to describe when, what date or day, or what time something happens.


The preposition in is used to describe what happens during years, centuries, months, and other periods of time.

  • In 1995, my family travelled to Australia.
  • There were no large mammals in the age of dinosaurs.

The preposition on is used to describe an action that occurs on specific dates or days or days of the week.

  • I called you three times on Tuesday.
  • We’re planning to have a party on my birthday.
  • I hope I’ll arrive early on New Year’s Day.

The preposition at is used to describe precise times of day.

  • We’re holding an important meeting at 3 p.m.
  • The friendly ghost appears every night at midnight.
  • If you’d like, I can meet you at lunch. (In this case, at lunch indicates the time of day, not the meal. If we’re meeting to eat, for example, we would say for lunch.)

Note (1) The prepositions in, on and at generally follow the order of largest to smallest, in terms of time, regardless of their order in the sentence.

I was born in February 1986, on a Tuesday, at 6 p.m.

I was born on a Tuesday at 6 p.m., in February 1986.

I was born at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, in February 1986.

Note (2) In general a preposition is not used with last, next, every, or this.

This Tuesday, I’ll call my doctor. Next summer, I plan to go to Cuba.


These three prepositions are used to describe the length or duration of an action, or the non-specific period of time (that is, not a date or time, but an interval or phase) of an occurrence.


The preposition for is used to indicate how long someone or something has done something, or how long something has been happening or has existed.

  • I waited outside the theatre for three hours.
  • Montreal has been Canada’s most important city for several centuries.

The preposition while is used with a verb form to represent the length of time of an action, or two actions occurring at the same time. The length of the action is not important.

  • He usually plays video games while eating his dinner.
  • Quebec held an election while I was out of the province.

Note: While can also be used as a conjunction, similar in meaning to although.

While I like your project, it still needs some revisions.


The preposition during is used with a noun to represent the period of time in which an action occurs.

  • I never go out during the week.
  • His imaginary friend was a source of comfort during his difficult childhood.

Prepositions of time -- Printable format

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