Recently, I got a comment from someone confused with the usage of “in old age” vs. “at old age”.  I thought that it would be beneficial to share what I know with you.  A lot of people seem to have confusions around the usage of prepositions “at”, “in” and “on”, when referencing time or place.  If you commit a usage error of the prepositions of time or place, you are not alone and are among many, including native speakers.

 

When should we use “at”, “in” or “on” when referencing time?

 

Prepositions of Time: At, In, On 

 

At:  (1) specific times on the clock such as at 3pm, (2) specific points of time in the day such as at dinnertime, (3) festivals such as at Easter and (4) fixed phrases referring to specific points in time such as at this moment.

 

In:  (1) nonspecific times during a day, a month, a season, or a year such as in summertime (2) longer periods of time such as in the past, in his 50s, in early age or in the morning (3) duration such as in a few hours. 

 

On:  (1) Days and dates such as on Sunday, on Christmas Day or on March 20th.

 

Listed below please find the examples of the usage of prepositions of time among "at", "in" and "on".  I tried to list as many examples as I can to aid you in understanding the correct usage of these time prepositions.

 * at Christmas - British English.  On Christmas - American English. 

* at the weekend – British English.  On the weekend – American English.

Usage

AT

Usage

IN

Usage

ON

clock times

at 11 o'clock,

at 11:30pm

 

months, years, and seasons,

in May,

in 1980,

in the 1980s,

in the ‘80s,

in summer,

in the summer,

in the summertime,

in the summer of 1996

days of the week, and parts of days of the week

on Sunday,

on Sundays,

on Sunday morning(s),

on weekends,

on the weekend

specific times of day, or mealtimes

at midnight,

at noon,

at midday,

at night,

at nighttime,

at dinnertime,

at breakfast,

at lunch

at bedtime,

at sunrise,

at sunset,

at dawn,

at dust

longer periods of time, and periods of time during the day

in the next century,

in the 20th century,

in the Ice Age,

in the Middle Ages,

in his 50s,

in old age,

in middle age,

in early age,

in the past ,

in the morning(s),

in the afternoon(s)

dates

on the 6th of March,

on the first day of the school year,

on March 2nd, 2010,

on 11/02/2010,

 on the morning of March the 2nd, 2010

festivals

at Christmas,

at Easter

 

 

 

special days

on Christmas Day,

on Independence Day,

on my birthday,

on New Year's Eve,

on New Year’s Day,

on Good Friday,

on Easter Sunday

fixed phrases indicating specific points in time

at the moment,

at the weekend*,

at the same time,

at present,

at the age of five,

at the end of the year.

at the beginning of the semester

duration

in five minutes,

in a few days,

in five weeks,

in a month,

in a couple of months,

in the future

 

 

 

 

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