Hey there, this is Teacher ola podcast episode 20: Prepositions of Time: in, on, at.
My name’s Ola and I teach English online through one to one lessons.
This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation. Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!
Hello! Thank you so much for choosing to spend the next few minutes with me. I’m sure you need this episode. For us, Polish learners prepositions are really hard to learn! I see lots of advanced students still making mistakes with prepositions, which is understandable. For example, look, sometimes there’s a preposition in Polish, for example, w zeszłym tygodniu) but there’s no preposition in English ( like last week). Same the other way round, take wieczorem, in the evening. If you translate some phrases you’ll see that there are loads of differences, significant differences: w poniedziałek, on Monday. This is the source of your problems, and now let’s clear things up.
Let’s start with ‘in’ since it’s, at least in my eyes, the least tricky one. It should feel quite easy to get confidence in using it. This preposition is used for longer periods of time, like months, years, seasons, decades and centuries. Repeat after me:
Her great grandparents arrived in the USA in 1968.
Electricity and magnetism were discovered in the XIX century.
I last saw her in September.
I never go abroad in the summer.
Water skiing and the traffic light were invented in the 1920’.
There’s one tiny exception to this rule unless you consider the main parts of the day as long periods of time. I consider it as an exception. Days and dates use the different preposition, ‘on’. Parts of the day are shorter than them, hence it is against the rule. Nevertheless, parts of the day take ‘in’ as a preposition. Listen and repeat aloud:
I always shower in the morning.
She doesn’t do any work in the evenings.
We always have lunch together in the afternoon.
There are exceptions within the exception! Ha! That’s the beauty of this language. Who said English was easy? He was mad! OK, so, The thing is, you don’t use ‘in’ for some parts of the day, for instance, night. It’s at night, but I’ll come back to this example when we get to the preposition ‘at’.
This is not all. Besides long periods of time and parts of the day ‘in’ is used with events that will happen at the end of a period or at a point in time during that period. Yup, I know! Best way to show it is to give you examples. Please repeat after me:
I’m sorry, she’s not here, but she’ll be back in an hour. (One hour from now).
I’m sure you’re able to finish this painting in a day.
They should arrive in a couple of minutes.
Here you have it, the preposition ‘in’. Now you know absolutely everything about that pretty one. Let’s move on to ‘on’.
This proposition isn’t more tricky than the preposition ‘in’, still it creates some hesitation in Polish speakers. It comes down to translating before speaking. Remember this one rule: use ‘on’ with days and dates. Repeat these sentences:
I’ve been invited to a party on 14 February.
I practice yoga on Saturdays.
I never go to a party on New Year’s Eve.
We always do something special on our anniversary.
He didn’t expect to see me on his birthday.
What do you usually do on Christmas Day?
I have my Spanish lessons on Monday mornings.
My dear friend, let’s not make it more difficult than it really is. ‘On’ with days. Anniversary is a day, just like New Year’s Day, Christmas Day and birthday.
Let’s have a look at ‘at’, shall we?
‘At’ can be tricky. Basically, there’s a rule to remember, but here are some phrases with ‘at’ you have to learn bu heart. By repeating sentences for example. The rule first. The rule says that we use ‘at’ with clock times and points of time in the day. This is used to describe the shortest periods of time. Ok, let’s practice by repeating a few sentences:
My train leaves at 6:45.
I’ll be back at 4 o’clock.
I’ll meet you at lunch time.
I can’t see you at midnight.
What time do you go to bed at night? (night, think that it’s not part of the day really, is it? And that’s why you can’t use ‘in’ here. It’s an exception.)
We also use ‘at’ with weekends and holiday periods. Repeat please:
I hope to get some rest at the weekend.
People exchange gifts at Christmas.
What do you do at Easter?
Do you do sport at weekends?
One more bunch of phrases. All of them represent points in time. Listen and repeat:
At last, I discovered how it works!
I’ll make a bank transfer at the beginning of the month.
I can’t speak to you at the moment, I’m sorry.
My husband and I arrived at the same time.
This is all I got about the preposition ‘at’.
I would like to add one more thing. Don’t use any preposition before words: this, every, next, last and yesterday. The final occasion to say correct sentences out loud:
They moved away last Wednesday.
See you next year.
She visits her parents every Sunday.
You need to call her this evening.
Ok, here you have it. Three prepositions of time fully explained, and practised through repetition, well done! Now it’s time to practice even more! Download the worksheet, it’s waiting for you at teacherola.com/20. Free transcript of this episode is also there.
Do you know someone who needs this podcast? Is there anyone you know who constantly messes prepositions up? Please, let them know about me! Thank you for being here with me, for taking some time for yourself. Be here next Wednesday. I’ll tell you a thing or two about translating in your head. All teachers say: stop translating in your head, but I say: it’s impossible. Please check episode 21 when it’s out if you want to find out more. Till then, have a great week. Happy learning! Bye-bye.