In, On, At: Important Prepositions of Time and Place

In, on, and at are all examples of prepositions that serve multiple purposes. Unlike some other prepositions, these three words are capable of showing a relationship to both time and place, depending on how you use them. If you’re slightly confused don’t worry, we’ll take a look at what prepositions of time and place are, and provide examples of these three words being used in both scenarios so you can see the difference.

In, On, At

What Are Prepositions of Time?

Prepositions of time simply show the relationship of time between two parts of a sentence. Prepositions are the words that connect these ideas together by explaining how they relate to each other in terms of time. There are many different examples of how this can work, but generally speaking, showing the relationship of time between two parts of a sentence usually refers to one of the following:

  • Indicating an unspecific amount of time. (e.g. in)
  • Indicating a specific date. (e.g. on)
  • Indicating a specific time. (e.g. at)
  • Indicating a time span. (e.g. from… to…)
  • Indicating something taking place prior to something else. (e.g. before)
  • Indicating something happening whilst another event took place. (e.g. during)

What Are Prepositions of Place?

These work similarly to prepositions of time, but instead of showing the relationship of time, they show the relationship of place between two parts of a sentence. Again, there are lots of prepositions that can be used for place, but here are some of the reasons you might use them:

  • Indicating an enclosed space or large area (e.g. in)
  • Indicating a surface or somewhere specific in a larger area. (e.g. on)
  • Indicating a certain point. (e.g. at)
  • Indicating position of something in relation to something else. (e.g. behind)
  • Indicating position in the middle of something. (e.g. between)
  • Indicating position with objects that are further apart. (e.g. near)

Examples of In, On, At (As Prepositions of Time)

In

In, when used as a preposition of time, is usually used to represent an unspecific amount of time or a more general time period that isn’t specific. Here are some examples:

  • I like to swim in summer.
  • I should be home in a week or two.
  • John turned 18 in 1996.

On

As a preposition of time, on refers to a specific date. Take a look:

  • I’ll be home on Sunday.
  • Let’s go out to eat on Valentines Day.
  • Jenny has to go to the dentist on the 15th Feb.

At

When used as a preposition of time, at indicates a specific time. The following are some examples of how it can be used correctly:

  • Meet me in the park at 6pm.
  • The movie starts at 7.
  • Snow usually falls at Christmas time.

Examples of In, On, At (As Prepositions of Place)

In

When used as a preposition of place this time, in usually refers to something being inside an enclosed space of some kind, or in a larger space. Here are some examples to make that a little clearer:

  • Tim was waiting in the car.
  • Paris is located in France.
  • The best food can be found in the centre of the city.

On

On, when we use it as a preposition of place instead of time, usually indicates that something is situated on top of something else, or somewhere more specific in a larger area. Let’s take a look at some examples:

  • You should head to the theatre on Second Street.
  • The apple was on the table.
  • James was looking for a doctors office on Main Street.

At

As a preposition of place instead of time, at can be used to show a certain point. It is the most specific of the three prepositions to indicate a specific place. Take a look at some examples:

  • You can find my office at 612 Made Up Street.
  • I picked this book up at the library.
  • I had to ask for a refund at the store.

As you can see, in, on, and at can all be used as prepositions of time and place. The key to remembering how to use them correctly is to ask yourself what relationship you are trying to show. If it is time or place, then you need to pick the correct preposition to use in terms of how specific you want to be. In both cases of time and place, in is the least specific, then on, then at is the most specific, so pick the one that suits your needs.

How to Use In, On, At Correctly

When it comes to using the prepositions of in, on and at there are certain things that you must keep in mind. It can be tricky for learners of the English language to get their heads around the use of the prepositions in, on and at but with this section, you will find it much easier.

We are going to be looking at what these prepositions are used for and the rules that you should consider when using them. This will give you much more confidence in forming sentences in your written and spoken English.

Prepositions of Time (In, On, At)

IN

The preposition IN is used for non-specific times, for example: years, months

In + Parts of the day

Prepositions examples:

  • In the morning
  • In the afternoon
  • In the evening

In + Months

Examples:

  • In January
  • In February

In + Seasons

Examples:

  • In (the) spring
  • In (the) summer

IN + Years

Examples:

  • In 1980
  • In 1969

In + Decades

Examples:

  • In the 1960s
  • In the seventies

In + Centuries

Examples:

  • In the 15th century
  • In the 21st century

IN + Weeks

Examples:

  • In a week
  • In 2 weeks

IN + Periods of time

Examples:

  • In the past
  • In the next century
  • In the future
  • In the middle ages
  • In a moment

IN + Holidays

Examples:

  • In the Easter holiday

ON

The preposition of time ON is used for dates, days of the week and holidays with “day”

On + Days

Examples:

  • On Monday
  • On Thursday
  • On Sunday

On + Dates

Examples:

  • On April 3rd
  • On 1st January 2013
  • On the 10th
  • On the first day

On + Holidays with “day”

Examples:

  • On New Year’s day
  • On Christmas day
  • On Easter day

On + Specific days

Examples:

  • On my birthday
  • On my wedding day
  • On that day

On + Time

Examples:

  • On the weekend (U.S.)
  • On weekdays
  • On time
  • On a summer evening

On + Day + Part of day

Examples:

  • On Sunday morning(s)
  • On Friday afternoon(s)
  • On Monday evening(s)

AT

The preposition AT is used for specific times and holidays without “day”

At + Hours

Examples:

  • At 7 am
  • At 12 o’clock

At + Parts of the day

Examples:

  • At night
  • At noon/ midday
  • At midnight

At + Holidays without “day”

Examples:

  • At Easter
  • At Christmas
  • At New Year

At + Time

Examples:

  • At present
  • At the weekend (U.K)
  • At breakfast
  • At the moment

Prepositions of Time IN ON AT

IN/ ON/ AT: Prepositions of TimePin

Prepositions of Place (In, On, At)

IN

For describing place, the preposition IN is used for the largest or most general places. You can say that “I lived in London as a child.” And “He’s a very famous person in Chinatown.”

In + Countries

Examples:

  • In England
  • In America

In + Cities

Examples:

  • In London
  • In New York

In + Neighborhood

Examples:

  • In Manhattan
  • In Chinatown

In + Enclosed Space

Examples:

  • In a traffic jam
  • In a building
  • In a car

ON

The preposition of place ON is used for more specific places, like certain streets. You can say that “He took a northbound trolley on State Street.

On + Means of transport

Examples:

  • On a bus
  • On a train
  • On a plane

On + Communications

Examples:

  • On the radio
  • On the television
  • On the phone
  • On the Internet

On + Surfaces

Examples:

  • On a table
  • On a wall
  • On the floor
  • On the roof

AT

The preposition AT is used in the following descriptions of place/position

At + Exact Addresses or Intersections

Examples:

  • At 23 Birch Street
  • At 734 State Street

At + Specific Locations/ Points

Examples:

  • At The Empire State Building
  • At the corner
  • At the bus stop

Prepositions of Place IN ON AT

IN/ ON/ AT: Prepositions of PlacePin

In, On, and At | Infographic

How to Use Prepositions of time and place at, in, on correctly.

How to Use Prepositions of TIME and PLACE CorrectlyPin

At, In, On | Video

Learn a simple method to use prepositions of TIME and PLACE AT, IN, ON Correctly with a video lesson.

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Natasha Muchak
Natasha Muchak
2 years ago

Hi,my name is Natasha.Im ukrainian.I like it very much .Its good way to improve my english. I waned to ask, how can I get such explanations in PDF. Thanks in advance.
Best regards.

Abbie
Abbie
1 year ago

In USA, we don’t say at Easter, we say ON Easter, just like every other day.

MichelleKGross
MichelleKGross
4 months ago
Reply to  Abbie

American speaker here. I usually use “over” with all the holidays. I only use “Day” to contrast “on Christmas Day” with “on Christmas Eve.” I have heard of “Easter Sunday” and “Easter Week,” but not “Easter Day.”
Do you want to get together over Easter or over Halloween? Those are the best days for finding stray candies around the house.
— Nah. I’d rather get together over New Years or Christmas; Those are the best days for finding stray bottles of liqueur around the house.

Yana
Yana
1 year ago

It’s really very strange to know that we have to put “ON” with “weekend”. I’ve been taught for many years that the right preposition is “AT”. I’ve just looked in my favourite grammar book Murhpy and – preposition “at”, at the week-end. And one more, “in” the holiday confuses me.

Christiana
Christiana
1 year ago
Reply to  Yana

‘At the weekend’ and ‘On the weekend’ are both correct. One is American and one is British.

Leo
Leo
1 year ago
Reply to  Yana

“on the weekend” is American English

Yana
Yana
1 year ago

And again, IN THE STREET, not ON the street. What’s going on? According to” English Grammar in use”

Christiana
Christiana
1 year ago
Reply to  Yana

In the street has a different meaning from On the street.
In the street means that you are where the cars drive on and on the street means on the footpath.

So, being in the street is dangerous cos one could be hit by a car.

MichelleKGross
MichelleKGross
4 months ago
Reply to  Yana

There is also an idiomatic “on the street” that means something like “out in the open”. It’s on the street that the Duchess wants to get into American politics.

Nancy
Nancy
1 year ago

Excellent explanation and icons too!

samaaira
samaaira
1 year ago
Reply to  Nancy

yes

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