This week we have two questions about the use of prepositions to indicate time.
Phoebe Chiang from Taiwan writes:
We use in for longer periods of time. We also say: 'in the morning', 'in the afternoon' and 'in the night'. Why can't we say: 'in the noon' or 'in the midnight'?
And Marta Fernandez from Spain asks:
When do we use in and when do we use on with dates? We say 'in September', but can we say 'on September the 29th'?
'at' with time phrases
- 'We'll meet you in front of the cinema at a quarter to eight.'
- 'I have to get up at six thirty on weekdays.'
- 'I like to spend some time with my family at Christmas and at Easter.'
- 'What are you doing at the weekend?'
- He was born at the end of the 19th Century and died at the end of the 20th.'
'in' with time phrases
- 'My dad prefers to work in the morning. He's too tired to work in the evening.'
- 'My granny always has a cup of tea at four o' clock in the afternoon.'
- 'I can't take my holiday in the summer, so I'll take it sometime in the autumn.'
- 'Our first child was born in 1996, so he'll be five years old in June.'
- 'Do you mind waiting? I shall be ready in about ten minutes.'
- 'If you order it now, you'll receive it in about two weeks' time.'
- 'I can run one hundred metres in 12.5 seconds!'
on with time phrases
- 'Could we meet on Sunday morning?' 'No, not on Sunday. I go to church on Sundays.'
- 'Why don't we have the meeting sometime in the afternoon on Thursday 5th April?'
- 'It's my birthday on 22nd April, so I'll ring you on 23rd.'
|21 April 2001||(as part of letter heading)|
|on 29th December I'm leaving for Paris||(within the body of the letter)|
However, when we are speaking those dates, we will normally insert the definite article and the preposition of, as follows: I'm leaving for Paris on the twenty ninth of December. I'm leaving for Paris on December the twenty ninth.
zero preposition with time phrases
At/in/on are not normally used with time phrases starting with next, last, this, that, every, some, all. Consider the following:
- 'Last year I made a cake for Jenny's birthday, but this year I'm going to buy one.'
- 'Are you free this morning? If not, I'll see you next week.'
- 'I'm at home all day tomorrow, so come round (at) any time.'
- 'What time are you leaving?' 'At eight o' clock.'
- 'Which days are you busy next week?' 'I'm busy on Wednesday and Friday, but I'm free on Thursday.'