English prepositions can be annoying!
There are a lot of them (about 150), and it’s not always clear when to use which ones.
Although there are many, three prepositions—in, on, and at—come up again and again.
Let’s look at how to use those three common prepositions to talk about time and place.
Prepositions of time
→ e.g., the 20th century, the 1900s
There were a lot of advances in technology in the 20th century.
→ e.g., the 1970s, the ‘80s
In my opinion, the best music was made in the 1990s!
→ e.g., 1981, 2010
I was born in 1987, so I’m a millennial.
→ e.g., October, February
I love having a birthday in July because I can always have my party outdoors.
→ e.g., 12 weeks, a week
Did you hear she’s having a baby? She’s due in 10 weeks!
→ (the) winter, (the) spring, (the) summer, (the) fall/autumn
I hope we’re able to take a trip to Europe in the spring.
Periods of time
→ e.g., an hour, 48 hours
I’m busy right now but I can meet you for lunch in two hours.
Time of day
→ morning, afternoon, evening
I don’t think I’ll have time to finish my work today—I’ll do it in the morning.
→ e.g., Tuesday, the weekend
I have to go grocery shopping on the weekend.
→ e.g., June 18, March 5
I’m going to a Halloweeen party on December 30.
→ e.g. our anniversary, the first day of school
He takes his wife out for dinner every year on their anniversary.
Day + time of day
→ e.g., Thursday afternoon, Friday night
I’m very nervous because I’m taking my driving test on Monday morning.
Holidays with “day”
→ e.g., Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day
A lot of people get together with family and friends on New Year’s Day.
→ e.g., 5 p.m., 7:45 a.m.
My son leaves for school every morning at 8:00 a.m.
Holidays without “day”
→ e.g., Easter, Thanksgiving
At Christmas, we like to decorate our house with colourful lights.
→ night, midnight, nighttime
These days, I never seem to be able to sleep at night!
Prepositions of place
→ e.g., Armenia, Mexico
My friend is Canadian but she’s been living in Korea for two years.
→ e.g., Tokyo, Nairobi
When I was in Barcelona, I loved going to the sidewalk cafés.
→ e.g., Chinatown, the shopping district
Have you ever seen the cherry trees blossoming in Nakameguro?
→ e.g., car, bedroom
Ew! Can you please take your shoes off when you’re in my house?
→ e.g., 1st Street, Broadway Avenue
That old shoe store on 19th Street is finally closing down.
→ e.g., table, roof
Why do you always leave your dirty clothes on the floor?!
→ e.g., boat, airplane (but not car)
Everyone on the bus is required to wear a protective mask.
→ e.g., video, phone
I heard on the radio that there was a car accident down the street.
→ e.g., 3100 Vincent Street, 1234 Newberry Drive
I hope you can come to the party! It’s at 5014 Grant Avenue.
→ e.g., at the mall, at the movie theatre
I’m running late. Don’t wait for me—I’ll just meet you at the restaurant.
Keep reviewing this list, and you’ll have these prepositions memorized in no time!