How to use AT, ON and IN (1: Time)

How to use AT, ON and IN for time expressions


AT is used for precise TIMES (written in hours and minutes)

* I have a meeting at 5 p.m.
* This bus leaves from Kumamoto at 12 noon and arrives in Fukuoka at 2 p.m.

It’s also used for special seasons of the year

* at Christmas, at New Year (but ON Christmas Day, ON New Year’s Day, IN summer etc. – see below)

Some other expressions with ‘at’

* at the weekend
* at the moment, at present
* at the beginning/end of the week/holidays etc.

ON is used for DAYS

* on Monday, on 1st January, on a weekday, on New Year’s Day
* I usually play tennis on Tuesdays. (implies a regular scheduled event)
* I was born on 15th June.

IN is usually used for LONGER PERIODS: months, years, decades and even centuries

* in January, in (the) spring, in 1980, in the last few years, in the 1960s, in the 21st century
* in the past, in the future
* I like to go skiing in winter.

It’s also used in the expression ‘in the middle’ (of anything)

* in the middle of the day/week/20th century, etc.

It’s used for most parts of the day

* in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening (but AT night)

NO WORD is needed for RELATIVE times

* now
* today, yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the day before yesterday
* this week, next week, last week
* this year, next year, last year
* I have to hand in my report tomorrow.

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