Prepositions of Time

Used with permission from Toni Verdú Carbó via a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Prepositions are difficult. Many students have problems with prepositions. Here are some rules for using prepositions of time.

Preposition Use Examples
in with months a in April; in December
a year in 1785; in 2011
seasons in winter; in the fall of 1972
the morning, the afternoon, the evening in the morning; in the afternoon; in the evening
a length of time into the future in an hour (= 1 hour in the future from now); in two weeks (= 2 weeks in the future from now)
at night, midnight, dawn at night; at dawn; at midnight
a specific time of day at 6 o’clock; at 8:30
a time of year near a holiday at Christmas; at Easter
time phrases that show a specific time or moment at the same time; at the moment
on days of the week on Monday; on Saturday
dates on the 13th of November; on November 13
holidays and special days on Halloween; on the Fourth of July; on my birthday
a part of the day when the date is given on the morning of September the 11th*
for a length or duration of time for three weeks; for an hour
since from a time in the past until now since 2005; since this morning; since I woke up yesterday
from … to
from… till/until
beginning and end times from Monday to Wednesday
from Monday till Wednesday
from Monday until Wednesday
during in the middle of something continuing during the week; during class


Now you can practice using these prepositions. Work alone or with your classmates to complete the sentences. More than one answer may be possible. Ask your teacher to check your answers.

  1. They are getting married __________ Sunday __________ 3 o’clock.
  2. __________ midnight, we were awakened by the sound of a dog barking.
  3. The party will be __________ Sunday __________ 4:00 __________ the afternoon.
  4. Spring begins __________ March 21, and summer begins __________ June 21.
  5. The last time I saw Pedro was __________ the summer of 2006.
  6. The festival took place __________ August.
  7. They came to this country __________ August 5, 2008.
  8. They came to this country __________ 2008.
  9. The ESL classes went  __________ May __________ August.
  10. He has not felt well __________ a long time, ever __________ his crash.
  11. They never go out __________ night __________ the week.
  12. We’ll be ready to leave __________ an hour.
  13. I will see you ___________ the afternoon.
  14. __________ the storm, all the lights were out __________ several hours.
  15. He has been away from home __________ January 12.
  16. The temperature is below zero. __________ a few hours, the pond should be frozen over.
  17. He had been away from home __________ two weeks.
  18. She will be here __________ a few hours.
  19. Hannah’s party is __________ the Saturday before her birthday.
  20. I’m sorry that my phone rang __________ class.

Talk with your classmates about these sentences. How does the meaning change with a different preposition?

  1. I will see you in the afternoon.
    I will see you before the afternoon.
  2. They came to this country before 2008.
    They came to this country after 2008.
    They came to this country in 2008.
  3. We have ESL classes from January to March.
    We have ESL classes in January and March.
  4. She will be here for a few hours.
    She will be here in a few hours.

Parts of Speech: Prepositions

(image by Christophe Dioux)

(image by Christophe Dioux)

Are you confused by prepositions in English?

Do you forget if you need to say, “at work” or “in work”, “on Sunday” or “in Sunday”?

You are not alone!

Many people have problems with prepositions in English. Prepositions are small words with a big meaning! There are more than 150 prepositions in English! Wikipedia lists 521! That’s a lot! This link gives you access to a free eBook from EnglishClub with a full list and examples of prepositions. It’s 56 pages long, so I don’t recommend that you print it, but you can use it as an online resource.

The good news is, it’s not necessary to memorize the entire list. But, you should study as many as you can. Today we’ll look at some of them and how to use them.

What’s a preposition? 

A preposition is a word that shows when, where, or how something was done.

  • I have class on Mondays.
  • The boy jumped into the lake.
  • Sarah opened the lock with a key.

How do I use prepositions? 

The word “preposition” means “pre- position.” Therefore, they go in front of another word, usually a noun.

Prepositions of Place


(photo by WT instructor JLN)

These prepositions show where things are.

In this picture, the bowls are beside (next to) the glasses. They are above the plates and the cups. The plates and cups are under the bowls and glasses. The plates are between the glasses and the cups. One bowl is inside another bowl. All of the dishes are inside the cabinet.

Prepositions of Time

These prepositions tell when you do something. In, On, and At are the three most common prepositions.


In general month, year, time of day, general time in January, in 2012, in the morning, in the future
On day, date on Christmas Day, on July 14th, on Saturday
At specific time, *night at 7:00 at night

Prepositions of Agent

These prepositions show how something is done.

  • The glass is filled with water.
  • The book was written by Cervantes.

For more lists and exhaustive explanations of prepositions, click here or here.

For some practice, try any of these exercises:


(More difficult)

(Even more difficult!)

Grammar: Prepositions

How good is your grammar?  Would you like to try and show everyone how good it is?  Here is your chance!!

Here are some prepositions.  I also explain when you use each preposition.

A.  AT a time

B.  ON a day

C.  IN a month (season, year, decade, century)

D.  AT an address

E.  ON a street

F.  IN an area (neighborhood, town, borough, state, country, continent, ocean,

the world, the solar system, the universe)

Okay, now you can show off.  Please use each preposition in a sentence.  For example for “A,” you could write I will see you at five.  Can you do the rest?

Verbs with Prepositions

I know that English preposition rules can be confusing. There are many verbs that use specific prepositions and if you use an incorrect preposition the meaning changes or you could say something altogether incorrect.

Here are some examples:

laugh about            She laughed about what the children had done.

laugh at                    We always laugh at his jokes.

learn about            I need to learn more about that topic.

lend ST to SO         I lent my dictionary to her.

listen for                 The mechanic said I should listen for any squeaking sounds.

listen to                  He loves to listen to his MP3 player on the subway.

long for                   I long for a week on the beach in Hawaii.

look at                     Look at this old picture of my grandmother.

look forward to    I look forward to meeting her parents.

ST = something; SO = someone

There is a great website that has a verb + preposition dictionary. You just select the letter that a word begins with and you can find out what prepositions go with that word.

Summer Homework!

The blogs are going on vacation for the summer. **** I’ve  refreshed an earlier post with great ideas for  your summer homework. Click on the blue links to learn and practice until we return with new lessons in the fall!

Confusing Word Choices

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

In these blogs, we teach you the differences between two (or more) confusing words or phrases. Click each one to learn more.


In these posts, we teach you how to pronounce or say something.


Here are the answers to some of the most common questions I hear from students.

Practical English

These articles will help you with the English you need every day.

How do I Recognize a Gerund


How to recognize a gerund.

All gerund end in ing. However, all present participles also end in ing. What is the difference?

Gerunds function as nouns. Thus, gerunds can be subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions.

Here are examples of gerunds:

Since Helen was five years old, running has been running passion.

Running = subject of the verb has been.

Helen enjoys singing more than anything

Singing = direct object of the verb enjoys.

Helen gives singing lesson with a lot of energy.

Singing = indirect object of the verb gives.



Lessons on States

Here is a map of the United States of America. We are going to use this map for several different lessons. Find the lesson for your level, and let’s get started!

image by Wikimedia Commons user:Wapcaplet, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Levels 1 and 2 – Prepositions of Place

Next to” and “beside” are the same. They mean “on one side” or “to the side of.”

  • North Carolina is next to Tennessee.
  • North Carolina is beside Tennessee.
  • Tennessee is next to North Carolina.
  • Tennessee is beside North Carolina.
  • Illinois is next to Indiana.
  • Indiana is beside Illinois.
  • Colorado and Nevada are next to Utah.
  • Nevada and Arizona are beside California.

Between” means “in the middle” (side to side OR up and down).

  • Utah is between Colorado and Nevada.
  • North Carolina is between Virginia and South Carolina.
  • Iowa is between Missouri and Minnesota.

In” means “inside.” The states have borders (lines where one state stops and a different state starts). Cities are in states.

  • Raleigh is in North Carolina.
  • North Carolina is in the United States.
  • We live in the United States.
  • We live in North Carolina.
  • We live in Raleigh.

Practice with a partner. Person A will ask a question. Person B will answer the question. Take turns asking and answering.

  1. A: Where is Durham?
    B: Durham is in North Carolina.
  2. A: Where is Oklahoma?
    B: Oklahoma is next to Arkansas.
  3. A: Where is Montana?
    B: Montana is between Idaho and North Dakota.
  4. A: Where is New Jersey?
    B: New Jersey is beside Pennsylvania.
  5. A: Where is Hawaii?
    B: Hawaii is in the Pacific Ocean.
  6. A: Where is Alaska?
    B: Alaska is next to Canada.
  7. A: Where is Alabama?
    B: Alabama is between Georgia and Mississippi.
  8. A: What is next to Massachusetts?
    B: New York is next to Massachusetts.
  9. A: What is beside Missouri?
    B: Illinois and Kansas are next to Missouri.
  10. A: What is between New York and New Hampshire?
    B: Vermont is between New York and New Hampshire.

Talk with your classmates.

  1. Where do you live? (I live in __________.)
  2. Which state do you want to visit? Why?
  3. Do you like to travel? Why/Why not?

Levels 3 and 4 – Compass Directions

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

A compass shows the direction you are traveling. There are four main directions on a compass – north, south, east, and west. When we compare the locations of two places, we can use the compass directions and “of.” Here are some examples:

  • Virginia is north of North Carolina.
  • California is west of Nevada.
  • Texas is south of Oklahoma.
  • New Jersey is east of Pennsylvania.

In those examples, the states are touching, but they don’t have to touch. Look at some more examples:

  • California is west of North Carolina.
  • Florida is south of New York.
  • Minnesota is east of Washington.
  • South Dakota is north of Texas.

If you want to show clearly that the states are touching, you can use “just” with the compass direction.

  • Virginia is just north of North Carolina.
  • California is just west of Nevada.
  • Texas is just south of Oklahoma.
  • New Jersey is just east of Pennsylvania.

If a place is not exactly north, but not exactly east, we say it’s north-east. For example, Kentucky is north-west of North Carolina. Here are some more examples:

  • North Dakota is north-east of Wyoming.
  • Texas is just south-west of Arkansas.
  • New Mexico is just south-east of Utah.

Talk with a partner. Look at the map, and take turns asking and answering questions.

  1. What is just west of Georgia?
  2. What is east of North Carolina?
  3. What is just north of Florida?
  4. What is west of Oregon?
  5. What is just north-west of Missouri?

Now practice asking your own questions. Your partner will answer.

Levels 5 and 6 – Abbreviations and Internet Research

Study the easier lessons to make sure you understand. Then search the internet for the answers to these questions.

  1. Where is the Grand Canyon?
  2. Finish this sentence: Barstow, CA is ___________ miles ____________ of Wilmington, NC on I-40.
  3. Where was Abraham Lincoln born?
  4. Where are the Great Lakes? What are their names?
  5. Where is the biggest state? Where is the smallest state? (Don’t just say their names. Describe where they are.)

Every state has an abbreviation that is used for sending mail and writing the name of the state in a short way. Each abbreviation has two letters. We write them with capital letters and no periods. Here are all the state abbreviations.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

When we read a state’s abbreviation out loud, we usually say the full name of the state. For example, when I see “Portland, OR,” I will say, “Portland, Oregon,” NOT, “Portland, O-R.” This is especially important when you are talking about Louisiana. If you say, “L-A,” people might think that you are talking about Los Angeles, CA. Read these cities and states out loud to practice saying the full name of the state.

  1. New York, NY
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Los Angeles, CA
  4. New Orleans, LA
  5. Raleigh, NC
  6. Atlanta, GA
  7. Austin, TX
  8. Detroit, MI
  9. Chicago, IL
  10. Las Vegas, NV

How Americans Speak – Sentence Stress

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

I have a 15- month-old baby. She is learning to speak, and she knows a lot of words, but she can’t speak in sentences yet. She says only the words she needs to communicate basic things. When she wants water, she says, “Water.” When she wants cheese, she says, “Cheese please.” When she is finished with something, she says, “All done!” In English, we call these kinds of words content words. Content words are necessary for communication.

Content words include:

  • main verbs – the verbs that show the action
  • nouns – people, places, things, ideas
  • adjectives – words that describe nouns
  • adverbs – words that describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs
  • negatives – no, not, never, nor, etc.
  • question words – who, what, where, when, why, how
  • interjections – Wow! No! Yay!

We also have function words – words that are necessary for grammar. Function words include:

  • articles – a/an/the
  • conjunctions – and, but, or, so, etc.
  • prepositions – of, to, from, in, etc.
  • pronouns – he, she, you, we, they, I, him, her, us, etc.
  • auxiliary verbs – have/has (in present perfect verbs), is/are/am (in present continuous verbs), modal verbs (would, could, should, can, might, must)

Function words are necessary for grammar to be correct, but without them, we can probably still understand the meaning of a sentence. Look at these words:


Imagine you are at a soccer game with a friend. Your friend’s brother is on one of the teams, but he is not playing in the game right now. It is very loud at the game, and you can’t understand every word your friend says. You only hear, “want brother play.” What is he saying?


You probably understood that because the content words made sense in this situation. Imagine the same words in a different situation. A 2-year-old child has a baby brother. The 2-year-old wants to play, but the baby is too little. He can’t play yet. The 2-year-old looks at his mother and says, “Want brother play!” This child is also saying, “I want my brother to play,” and we understand him because we know the situation, and it makes sense.

How is this related to MY pronunciation?

Americans pronounce content words louder and more clearly than function words. In the sentence, “I want my brother to play,” Americans will pronounce the content words (want/brother/play) very clearly, but the function words (I/my/to) will not be loud or clear.

In these sentences, the content words are in CAPITAL ITALIC letters. Try to read the sentences out loud. Say the content words loudly and clearly. Say the function words softly. You can cover your mouth when you say the function words if you want.

  1. I HAVE to GO to WORK.
  2. He TOLD me he would CALL.
  3. It’s NOT a GOOD IDEA.

Find the Content Words

Now let’s practice finding the content words. In these sentences, which words are content words? Which words are function words? Look at the lists above to help you decide.

  1. I told you not to do it.
  2. We’re going to the park.
  3. Raleigh is a great city.
  4. Hannah and her brother are playing outside.
  5. What would you like for dinner?

Here are the answers:

Sentence Content Words Function Words                                    
1 told, not, do I, you, to, it
2 going, park We’re, to, the
3 Raleigh, is, great, city a
4 Hannah, brother, playing, outside and, her, are
5 What, like, dinner would, you, for

Circle or highlight the content words. Read the sentences again, and put a strong emphasis on those words. Say the function words quietly and quickly.

Your Turn

Look in a book, magazine, or newspaper. Choose a few sentences to practice. Circle the content words. Then practice reading the sentences out loud. Pronounce the content words loudly and clearly. Pronounce the function words more quietly and less clearly. Ask your teacher if your pronunciation is correct.

Phrasal Verbs for Travel

For ESL Levels 4+

Are you confused by prepositions? My students always ask me, “Teacher, can you explain prepositions?” Some prepositions are not too hard. Prepositions of place and time, for example, are easy to teach. Prepositions in English are so difficult because we have many, many, many phrasal verbs.

What is a phrasal verb?

A phrasal verb is usually two or three words. The first word is a verb, and the other word or words are prepositions. Phrasal verbs are like idioms. When you use the words together, the phrase has a specific meaning. Often, the meaning is related to the meaning of the verb, but not always. For example, “blow up” can mean “to put air into something” like a balloon or a tire. With this meaning, you must blow air into something. However, “blow up” can also mean “to explode.” With that meaning, you don’t blow any air.

Phrasal Verbs for Travel

This week, we are going to learn some phrasal verbs related to travel. Here are 10 phrasal verbs and their definitions.

  • drop (someone) off – to take someone to a place and leave him/her there
  • check in – to tell someone at a hotel or airport that you are there for your reservation
  • check out – to return your key and pay your bill when you are leaving a hotel
  • get in – to arrive at a destination
  • go/come back – to return
  • look around – to explore / to walk through a city, museum, store, etc., and see what is there
  • pick (someone) up – to get someone from a place
  • see (someone) off – to go to the airport, train station, or bus station and say goodbye
  • stop off – to stop in one place for a short time on your way to another place
  • take off – to leave, usually when an airplane leaves the ground

Now look at this conversation and answer the questions.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

  1. Who is going somewhere?
  2. How is the person traveling?
  3. Who is going to help him/her? How?
  4. When is the person leaving?
  5. When is the person returning?
  6. What do you think “that’s up to you” means?
  7. Do you think Mom will see this person off, or will she drop him/her off at the door?
  8. How does Mom respond to “thank you”? What other phrases can you use to reply to “thank you”?









In the next conversation, a husband and wife are talking about their weekend travel plans. Read the conversation and answer the questions.

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

image by WTCC instructor ecparent

  1. Where do you think the couple is going? Why?
  2. What does the wife want to do on Saturday?
  3. What does the husband want to do on the way to the airport?
  4. What day/time can they arrive at their hotel?
  5. What day/time do they have to leave their hotel?











Your Turn

Work alone or with your classmates. Try to complete each sentence with the correct phrasal verb.

  1. We want to ______________________ in Washington D.C. for one day on our way to Pennsylvania.
  2. You should arrive at the airport and ______________________ with your airline at least two hours before your flight.
  3. My flight should arrive at 3:30, so I told Karen to _________ me _________ at 3:45. That will give me time to get my bags and go outside.
  4. I’m leaving on Monday, and I’m ______________________ on Saturday.
  5. The scariest parts of flying for me are when the plane ______________________ and lands. The rest is fine.
  6. I didn’t get to see John at my going-away party, so he came to the airport the next day to _________ me _________.
  7. You look so tired! What time did you ______________________ from your trip last night?
  8. After my friend _________ me _________ at the airport this morning, I realized my trip is tomorrow! I had to call a taxi to take me home.
  9. We have to ______________________ of the hotel by noon, but our flight isn’t until 4:00, so we have plenty of time to eat lunch.
  10. I like to go to new cities and just ______________________. I don’t follow a guide book.