In this post, we learn what prepositions of time are, and how they are used in sentences correctly.
What is a preposition in English?
A preposition is a word or a group of words that comes before a noun or a pronoun and connects it to another part of a sentence. It generally shows the relation between a noun/pronoun and another part of the sentence in terms of place, time, and movement.
Types of prepositions in English
- Prepositions of time
- Prepositions of place
- Prepositions of movement
Let’s understand what prepositions of time are!
PREPOSITIONS OF TIME
Prepositions of time come before a noun and show their relation with another part of a sentence in terms of time.
Common prepositions of time: on, at, in, for, since, till/until, from, from…to, before, after, by, during, etc.
Usage: the preposition ‘on‘ is generally used to talk about specific days, dates, or occasions.
Examples of ‘on’
• What are you doing on Sunday?
• I will buy clothes for all of you on Diwali.
• We have a surprise party on 20th December.
• She did a lot of crazy things on your birthday.
• I will have to be sober on Monday morning.
Usage: The preposition ‘at‘ refers to a specific time.
Examples of ‘at’
• I’ll call you at 6 PM. Be ready.
• She woke up at 11 AM last night.
• Will you be here at lunchtime?
• We can discuss it at dinner or dinnertime.
• Do you like to work at night?
Notice that we are using ‘at’ before lunchtime or dinnertime or just lunch or dinner as they are very specific times of a day.
We can also use ‘at’ before the name of a festival. But when we use the preposition ‘at’ this way, it doesn’t refer to a specific day, rather it refers to a period of time the festival is celebrated for.
• Will you be home at Christmas? (During the time of Christmas, not on a specific day)
• Will you be home on Christmas? (on a particular day)
Usage: The preposition ‘in‘ is used to refer to unspecific time of months, seasons, years, decades, centuries, etc.
Examples of ‘in’
• We can organize his farewell party in January.
• I have finals exams in 2022.
• I love going to the hill stations in winter.
• She doesn’t like to travel in summer.
• A lot of things have changed in the last decade.
• We are living in the 21st century.
The preposition ‘in‘ is also used in the following structure: IN + a number + days/months/years
• I will call you in 20 minutes. (within or after 20 minutes)
• We will finish the project in two days. (within or after 2 days)
• You will master this course in two months. (within or after 2 months)
• The HR manager will contact you in some time. (unspecific time period)
In + some time generally means within the time period but close to its end. It could also mean “after the time period.”
Usage: the preposition ‘for‘ is used to talk about the time duration of an action.
Examples of ‘for’
- I have been teaching English for 6 years.
- You need to stay here at least for a week.
- We worked in that company for 2 years.
- Jon had been waiting for three hours before he caught the train.
- Try eating this for a month.
- You will have to wait here for some time.
- My father has been cooking for a long time.
Note: if can also refer to an unspecific time duration using the phrases like a long time, some time, a couple of hours/minutes/days, a good amount of time, etc.
Usage: the preposition ‘since‘ is used to talk about the starting point of an action that started in the past and is still continuing in the present or stopped in the past.
Examples of ‘since’
- We have been living here since 1992.
- Riya has been with me since last Sunday.
- Jon and I have been amazing friends since childhood.
- I have been facing a lot of financial problems since the beginning of the last year.
- We haven’t been talking since we moved apart.
Usage: Both ‘until’ and ‘till’ are unchangeable and mean the same thing. It means up to a specific or an unspecific time.
Examples of ‘until/till’
- We will have to wait here until/till the morning.
- They are not coming back until Sunday.
- We will not see each other until next month.
We can also use an unspecific time after till/until.
- I will keep fighting for my people until I die.
(We don’t know when I die, but it will happen at some point in time in future.)
- Don’t go anywhere until Jon comes back.
(We don’t know when Jon comes back.)
Usage: the preposition ‘from‘ tells us the starting point of an action.
Examples of ‘from’
- I will be available from the next month.
- The classes are going to resume from Monday.
Usage: the preposition ‘from…to’ is used to indicate a time duration including the beginning and the end.
Examples of ‘from…to’
- All the shops will be closed from 9 AM to 7 PM.
- Most people work from Monday to Friday.
- I was working in China from 2018 to 2020.
Usage: the preposition ‘before‘ is used to indicate a prior event or time from a point.
Examples of ‘before’
- We have to finish the task before the deadline.
- Let’s finish the work before lunch.
- I had a lot of friends before 2020.
- She has to find a job before the end of the year.
Usage: the preposition ‘after‘ is just the opposite of the preposition ‘before.’
Examples of ‘after’
- He has become a different person after his wedding.
- We will go to his place after the match.
- You can do anything you want after the lecture.
- Jon started drinking a lot after losing to Tyson.
- Everyone started to cry after listening to his story.
Usage: the preposition ‘by‘ means within the time period mentioned or not later than the time mentioned.
Examples of ‘by’
- Ron will have to come back by 11 PM.
(This sentence means that the listener can come back any time but not after 11 PM; he can come back at 10 PM, or 10:20 PM, or 10:25 PM, or 10:40 PM, or even at 11 PM. But he can’t come back after 11 PM. He has to be back within the time mentioned.)
- I need a job by the end of the year.
- We could submit the assignment by Monday.
- She will be here by Monday morning.
- You must pay the fee by June 18 to join the program.
- We must find a place to live by the end of this month. We will have to live on streets otherwise.
Usage: the preposition ‘during‘ means throughout the duration of an event.
Examples of ‘during’
- Most of this students were sleeping during my speech.
- We are not allowing to talk during lunch.
- The company does not allow the employees to use their phones during office time.
- I was on my toes during the entire fight.
- Jon was caught eating during the lecture.
Prepositions of time exercise!
- He is busy __ weekends.
- Will it be okay to discuss the deal ___ dinner?
- I don’t think that he will be back __ 10 PM.
- We can talk about it __ the office time.
- I will be completely free __ Sunday.
- The market will be shut down __ 10 March __ 25 March.
- I don’t want anyone to talk ___ the fight. I want complete silence.
- Unfortunately, we will have to live here ___ the end of the month. We can move to a new place next month.
- We haven’t liked each other __ a long time back.
- Leave it to dry __ 2 hours.
- by (at/before)
- after (before/during)