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Prepositions – At vs. In vs. On

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  Yigal Ben Efraim  —  Grammar Tips
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Prepositions – At vs. In vs. On

In, at and on are commonly used prepositions and are used in different situations – be it telling a
date, or time, or about a place and so on. Let’s discuss these prepositions and their uses in detail
with reference to time.

Use

at – for telling exact time. For example, at 3pm.
on – for telling exact dates and days. Example – on January 24, 1986, on Saturday
in – for a longer duration. Example – in 1998, in 3 months

Let me use the above concept in a sentence to make it clear.

My birthday falls on January 24, 1998. This means I was born in January in (the year) 1998. I am also
the lucky one to be born in the 20th century. I am so excited to inform all this to my Maths teacher
when I meet her on Sunday at 3pm.

Pretty straightforward huh? Let’s make it a little more interesting then!

When we talk about morning, afternoon, evening and night, we say –

In the morning
In the afternoon
In the evening
But – at night!

Same way noon – which is 12pm – is followed by at. (at noon). Midnight – 12 am – at midnight.

But when you specify a day, then you have to say – on <day> morning.

Example – I met my friend on Sunday morning.

I met my friend in the morning.

For festivals that are on fixed dates, we add at. Example, at Christmas. But for festivals which do not
have fixed dates, we add on. Example – on Diwali or on the eve of Diwali and so on.

Weekends

The use of prepositions before the word weekend or weekends varies in American and British
English. You may have seen phrases like “I will stay here over the weekend”, “I will come to your
home on weekends”, “I will be here at weekends” or “We have some plans for the weekend”. All of
these are correct in the usage. But the context in which they are used is different.

1. I will stay here over the weekend – this means I am going to stay for the entire duration of
Saturday, Sunday and even Friday or Monday in case it’s a long holiday weekend.

2. I will come to your home on weekends – its going to be a regular affair – that is I will be coming to
your home on all the weekends – the event is a recurring one.

3. I will be here at weekends – this has the same meaning as previous one and is used in British
English. For them, it makes no difference whether its on the weekends or at the weekends.

4. We have some plans for the weekend – This sentence specifies a plan and hence ‘for’ is used.
Here, you can also use on or at in place of for and the sentence will still be correct. “We have some
plans on the weekend” or “We have some plans at the weekend”

Do not use in/at/on with last/next/this/every

Never say – I met her on last Friday. That’s WRONG.
CORRECT – I met her last Friday.

WRONG – Let’s meet on next Monday to discuss this matter.
CORRECT – Let’s meet next Monday to discuss this matter.

WRONG – They went for a movie on this Sunday.
CORRECT – They went for a movie this Sunday.

WRONG – I play tennis on every Saturday.
CORRECT – I play tennis every Saturday.

On time/In time

On time means punctual or not late. For examplePlease be on time for the session.

In time also means not being late – but it means not too late or soon enough to not be late.

Confused? Let’s see an example.

I hope she arrives home in time to see the full movie. This means she wasn’t too late and arrived just

when the movie was about to start or had just started.
The 12pm train departed on time. We reached the station (just) in time to catch the train.

At the end/In the end

We use ‘at the end’ to indicate the time at which something ends.
For example – At the end of the movie, everyone came out happily.
At the end of the award ceremony, we went and took photographs with the winner.
‘in the end’ means finally. It is used to convey the final results or conclusion of a situation.

Examples -

I searched for my money in the whole class. In the end, I found it in my bag!

At first, I did not like her attitude. However, in the end, we became good friends.

At the end of the speech, you can conclude by saying, “In the end, I would like to thank everyone for
the support I got from each of you.”

Hope the usage of in/at/on with respect to time is clear for you. Here are some exercises that you
can try to see if you have understood it all –

1. I am going to India __ the end of this month.

2. She arrived at the hotel __ time, but I got late by 15 minutes.

3. We got our wedding photo shoot done ____ week.

4. ___ present, I am working with a company named XYZ solutions.

5. Will you come for a walk with me ___ the evening?

Enjoy!
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