The Writing Center

Prepositions

Prepositions cause much trouble for non-native speakers of English and are a particularly difficult part of language learning. The best way for English language learners to overcome the difficulties with prepositions in idiomatic usage is through practice and close attention to written and spoken English.

Prepositions of time: at, on, in, for, since, until, from/to, since

 

At: Use at for specific times

My class starts at 3:30.
The movie starts at 8 o’clock.

On: Use on for specific days and dates

I have class on Monday(s) and Wednesday(s). The concert is on July 17th.
We like to visit friends on the weekend.

At/in (time of day): Both the prepositions at and in are used for different times in the day in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, at night, at midnight, at dusk, at dawn, at sunrise, at sunset

In/for (measuring duration of event): **Both the prepositions in and for are used when measuring duration of an event (seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years)

He finished the race in nine minutes.
She completed her PhD in five years.
We will stay in Canada for one week.
They have been married for ten years.
She can hold her breath under water for fifty-five seconds.

In: Use in for months, years, and seasons

School will start in September.
I was born in 1983.
We love to go camping in the fall.

In (time left): The preposition in is used for indicating an amount of time left until an action occurs

Our flight will leave in fifteen minutes. We will see you in a few days.
My due date is in seven weeks.
We will return to China in two years.

Until/from:

Use until to show how much time remains before the end of a period of time

We will be on vacation until August 25. I did my homework until 7 o’clock.
She can’t help you until Friday.

Use from...to... to show a range of time (you can also use from... until...)
We lived in Asia from 2001 to 2003.

I work from nine to five.
My aunt will visit from Monday to Thursday.

To: Use to indicate an end time

This class goes to six o’clock. I work from dawn to midnight.

Since: Use since with a specific date or time

I have worked as a receptionist since 1995.
We have been waiting in the doctor’s office since 4:30. She has been at the hospital since Monday.

 

Prepositions of place: at, on, in

 

At: Use at for specific addresses
Mr. Smith lives at 1001 Willow Street in San Francisco.

On: Use on for names of streets, avenues, etc. His house is on Willow Street.

In: Use in for towns, counties, states, countries, and continents

He lives in San Francisco/ He lives in California/ He lives in the U.S.A.

 
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