Prepositions of time

(Using English prepositions that express time)

Table of contents – prepositions of time

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Rules for prepositions of time
  2. Additional prepositions of time
  3. List of prepositions of time
  4. Further explanations and exercises

What are the rules for using prepositions of time in English?

In many cases, prepositions of time include the short and commonly used words ‘in, on, at’. Making it more difficult, these three also often express spatial indications. However, temporal ones can also include other expressions such as ‘during, ago, by, past, after, before’, etc.

As being rather untypical for the English language, some rules can indeed be derived for the use of prepositions of time for simplicity, which apply at least in principle. Note accordingly:

  • The most important rules for prepositions that specify a time or temporal aspect:
    • on’ is used for specified days and weekdays:
    • in’ typically occurs with months, years, seasons, times of day:
      • in February’
      • in 2017’
      • in winter’
      • in the afternoon’
    • at’ stands with special days (if one refers to the festival itself and not the day) as well as when telling the time and also with mealtimes:
      • at Christmas’
      • at Easter’
      • at four o’clock’

Attention: Some expressions may be used with varying prepositions. British and American English often differ in this context:

  • Example phrase including ‘the weekend’:
    • at the weekend’ → British English
    • on the weekend’ → American English

What additional prepositions of time are there?

Prepositions appear very extensive in English and, therefore, cannot be presented in a complete list. The two problematic ones ‘since’ and ‘for’ are explained individually in detail in the difference of ‘since/for’. The following list is a compilation of frequently used prepositions in example sentences:

List of temporal prepositions

English prepositions related to time with examples
English preposition Example sentence
in “Sue moved in March.”
on “Mr Hammersmith never works on Fridays.”
at “A lot of people go to church at Easter.”
before “We need to do that before her birthday.”
between “He’s going to call you between 2 and 4 o’clock.”
during “My dad often travels during the week.”
by “Our boss needs the report by Friday.”
since “Lori has lived in New York since 2012.”
for “Raphael has had a dog for a long time.”
after “We are very relaxed after such a long holiday.”
from “He’s going to be on holiday from tomorrow.”
past “It’s already half past two.”
until “I have to work until five o’clock.”
till “Till tomorrow!”
within “He expects your answer within the next three days.”
to “The shop will be closed from Tuesday to Thursday.”
over “Are you going away over the long weekend?”

Further explanations related to the ‘Prepositions of time’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Using English prepositions that express time’ and might be interesting too: