Hi, guys! How are you? How about learning about the main use of the prepositions IN, ON and AT? Let’s have a look at the the different ways we can use these three prepositions when talking about place and time.

Prepositions IN – ON – AT (place and time)

The main challenge when learning prepositions IN, ON, and AT in English is that they can be very different from your mother tongue. It is better to learn prepositions by examples — this way you will establish a connection between the form and meaning of preposition in your mind.

The prepositions below are divided into groups of application: prepositions of place and time.

The second part of this entry contains a summary table for prepositions of time and place.

Prepositions of place

We use IN with big areas such as towns, cities, countries and continents:

  • She has been living in Europe for two years now.
  • The climate in the US is very diverse.
  • I stayed in London for two weeks
  • He is the best writer in the world.

Same applies to enclosed spaces such as rooms/buildings. Think of it as shortened version of inside:

  • There is some milk in the bottle. The bottle is in the fridge.
  • George is in his room waiting for you.
  • She works in the supermarket (see a comparison with at below)

ON  goes when we talk about something located on a surface such as a table, a river, ground surface:

  • We were lying on the grass staring into the night sky.
  • I’ve put the morning newspaper on the kitchen table.

ON goes with names of streets and avenues:

  • I live on Baker Street. The museum is located on Brooks Avenue.
  • The house we are looking for is on Route 50.

However, if we talk about a more specific address then we use AT:

  • The school is at 109 Lincoln Street.
  • I will meet you at 65 Hancock Avenue.

We use at when talking about a point at some place instead of bigger area:

  • I met him at the restaurant (They met at a certain place in that restaurant, e.g. at the entrance.).
  • I’ll be waiting for you at the station.

Use at when talking about such places as school, shop, supermarket. AT is also used when talking about companies and institutions:

  • He has been working at Apple for almost a decade.
  • I stopped at the local supermarket to do some shopping BUT: I decided to stay in the supermarket because it was raining outside (We used in because the fact of being inside the building was more important)

We use AT  when talking about an event involving a group of people:

  • We met him at the party last night before we went to Bob’s.

Prepositions of time

We use IN to show that something happened in unspecified point of time.

  • She woke up in the morning. I was born in 1971. They plan to move to New Jersey in August.

We use IN with longer periods of time (months, seasons, years, centuries):

  • The birds usually return here in late spring.
  • Harper Lee died in 2016.
  • Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in the 19th century.

Use IN when talking about a period of time until something happens:

  • I am going to leave the country in four days.
  • The exam results will be announced in two weeks. 

IN goes with parts of day:

  • I usually wake up early in the morning
  • They promised to visit us in the afternoon BUT: at midday, at night, at midnight

ON is normally used with days and dates:

  • I’ll meet you on Monday.
  • She is due to arrive on the 31st of January although we are not sure.
  • These flowers always bloom on the first day of spring when the weather gets warmer (Even though there is a season mentioned we still stick use ON because it refers to the day rather than the season)

AT goes before specific points at time (e.g. at 5 o’clock, at midnight, at midday, at 8:30 in the morning)

  • My boss usually pays at the end of the month.
  • I hope to see you next weekend.

Use AT with meals:

  • You weren’t very talkative at dinner yesterday.
  • I will see you all guys at lunch!

Hope now you can use these three prepositions IN, ON, and AT with confidence! Go on learning about the Use of English and about passing your First Certificate Exam with flying colors!

Likewise, check my FB page or my TeachersPayTeachers store, where you will find all sorts of pieces of advice and resources.

Prepositions IN - ON - AT (place and time)


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