Times of day & mealtimes

(How to specify the day and meal times in English)

Table of contents – mealtimes and day times

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of the times of day
  2. Naming of the mealtimes
  3. Further explanations and exercises

How do you indicate times of the day in English? What should you consider?

When speaking of the times of day in English, people usually use the four time indications listed below. If you refer to the current day, you always need to add the demonstrative pronounthis’. However, if you specify the time of day in general, use ‘in the’ (preposition + article) and one of the following words.

  • Now, compare the different usages of ‘this’ and ‘in the’ together with the respective time of day in detail:
    • morning (from midnight to 12 o’clock; also called ‘noon’ in American English):
      • “I don’t have to work this morning.”
      • “I usually get up at seven o’clock in the morning.”
    • afternoon (from noon to about 4–5 p.m., depending on your feeling):
      • “Can we meet this afternoon?”
      • “The meeting will be in the afternoon.”
    • evening (from about 4–5 p.m. to midnight):
      • “We are having dinner together this evening.”
      • “They usually play tennis in the evening.”
  • There are several possibilities with different meanings when using ‘night’:
    • night’, typically, when it is dark:
      • “The sky is very clear this night.”
    • in the night’ means ‘in the middle of the night’ and can be replaced by ‘during the night’:
      • “Well, but don’t call me in the night. Wait till the morning.”
      • “Well, but don’t call me during the night. Wait till the morning.”
    • tonight’ can stand for ‘this evening’ or ‘the upcoming night’:
      • “Are you going to the party tonight?”
      • “I hope I don’t wake up again tonight.”
    • at night’ is commonly used to express ‘in the dark’ or ‘when it is dark’:
      • “The city is much more beautiful at night.”
    • last night’ means ‘yesterday evening’ or ‘the night before’:
      • “How was the show last night?”
      • “I slept quite well last night.”

How do you name the mealtimes in English?

The mealtimes in English are named as follows:

  • breakfast → the first meal in the morning
  • brunch → a late breakfast at the weekend combined with lunch, habitually in the USA
  • lunch or lunchtime → the meal in the middle of the day
  • tea → a light snack in the afternoon, prevalent in the United Kingdom
  • dinner → the meal in the evening; sometimes also used for lunch
  • supper → a late snack, often before bedtime

Note: It is often common to state specific plans with reference to mealtimes. The following prepositions are suitable for this:

  • atat lunchtime, at dinner time …
  • until or tilltill lunchtime …
  • beforebefore dinner, before lunch …
  • duringduring dinner …
  • afterafter lunch, after dinner …

Further explanations relating to ‘English day and meal times’

The following explanations refer to the topic ‘Times of day and mealtimes in the English language’ and may be interesting too: