Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Don’t get confused by English prepositions!

It’s vital you understand this English grammar.

You need to be able to talk about when an event is happening.

You also need to describe when a package is going to be delivered.

We use prepositions every time we speak English!

In today’s episode, Lindsay and Aubrey share with you how to use prepositions of time.

We use these when talking about events and times.

Listen in and learn how to use the prepositions in, on, and at correctly.

English prepositions of time

Lindsay asks Aubrey if she is good at getting to places on time or if is she usually late.

Aubrey says she is a stickler for being on time.

  • Stickler: a person who is very strict about a certain quality or behavior

Aubrey makes sure she is prompt and does not keep others waiting when she commits to a meeting or schedule.

It bothers her when others are late, so she makes an effort to be on time.

Lindsay mentions that she has friends who are notoriously late.

She finds that annoying.

She shares as well that is part of American culture to be on time all the time.

It shows you respect others’ time and you value them.

Today’s episode is inspired by a listener question.

She asked about the proper use of the prepositions in, on and at.

Listener question

Dear Lindsay, Michelle, Jessica and Aubrey,

Love your energetic podcast so much. I’m Power Girl from Taiwan. I’ve been an All Ears English fan for two years and I never find other English teaching podcasts so addictive as yours. I had difficulty with a teacher with a grammar question I answered. The sentence was “The person will arrive ____ first week of March.” I used the preposition “in” and my instructor said I should use “on.” The reason for this is because the person will be arriving on a certain week. I tried and Google it and I found some native English speakers using “in” and it is now making me more confused.

English prepositions can be confusing!

Aubrey understands it can be very frustrating when you don’t know which preposition to use.

They are, however, very important.

Using the incorrect preposition makes the grammar incorrect.

It also makes a speaker stand out as a language learner.

Don’t stress about this, as it’s more important to make a connection!

However, if you know the overarching rules, you’ll know which one to use!

Answering today’s question

overarching rule: for larger time periods, use the preposition “in.”

This is used for the largest amounts of time.

She also adds that the instructor might get confused as well because he or she may not be a native English speaker.

They might also be from Britain or New Zealand where they may use prepositions differently.

Lindsay agrees with this and mentioned that she recently did a podcast with Pete Smissen which highlighted differences.

Pete greeted her with, “How are you going?” and she responded, “I’m going well!”

You can watch the episode at this link: AEE 1605: 3 Tips for Life in Australia with Pete Smissen from the Aussie English Podcast.

Grammar rules are a good foundation for improving your English.

But you don’t have to just stick to that if the general people around you use it differently.

You want to blend in and it’s possible that with different ways to use English as a local.

How to Use In, On and At

There are three English prepositions to use when referring to time.

  • In
  • On
  • At

Lindsay and Aubrey share the difference between all three and how to use them.

#1: In

This preposition is used to show the largest time or place.

It can be broad time events or the future.

Example:

“In June…”

“In Summer…”

“In the Dark Ages…”

#2: On

‘On’ is used to refer to much more specific dates and times.

Example:

“On Saturday…”

“On March 6…”

“On my birthday…”

#3: At

This is usually used for smaller increments of time or place.

You can be more precise with it.

Example:

“At 2:00…”

“At bedtime…”

“At sunrise…”

Roleplay

Here is a quick roleplay to show how you can use these prepositions in a conversation.

In this scenario, Lindsay is asking Aubrey about attending a mutual friend’s birthday party.

Lindsay: Are you going to Mark’s party?

Aubrey: Oh I forgot about it. When is it?

Lindsay: It’s on Saturday at 7:00 pm.

Aubrey: Oh no! That’s on July 5th. I made plans to do a nearby hike at sunset.

Lindsay: Maybe you can do both. What time is sunset?

Aubrey: It sets earlier in summer, right? I think it sets at 6:00 pm. Maybe I’ll swing by after.

Lindsay: Perfect solution!

Takeaway

In general, these rules will help you get a better grasp of English prepositions.

They’ll help you know which to use when referring to time and events.

Take note of the tips on differentiating in, on, and, at so you don’t get confused when inviting someone to a party or when talking about a special event in your life.

But keep in mind that English may be different depending on where you are, so these are rules you can deviate from to adjust to how the locals in your area speak English.

The key here is to be attentive to how it is being used to pick up what the locals are saying.

When learning a new language, you want to make that connection, so put away the perfectionism.

What other prepositions do you find confusing?

Share it in the comments below.

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