at – in – on (time)

at + exact time

in + part of day

on + particular day

at + weekend, public holiday

in + longer period

1. Exact times

  • I usually get up at six o’clock
  • I’ll meet you at 4.15
  • Phone me at lunch time

In informal English, we say What time…?
(At what time…? is correct, but unusual.)

2. Parts of the day

  • I work best in the morning
  • three o’clock in the afternoon
  • we usually go out in the evening

Exception: at night.

We use on if we say which morning/ afternoon/ etc we are talking about,
or if we describe the morning/ afternoon/ etc.

  • See you on Monday morning
  • It was on a cold afternoon in early spring…

3. Days

  • I’ll phone you on Tuesday.
  • My birthday’s on March 21st.
  • They’re having a party on Christmas Day.

In informal speech we sometimes leave out on (This is common in American English)

  • I’m seeing her Sunday morning.

Note the use of plurals (Sundays, Mondays etc)
when we talk about repeated actions.

  • We usually go to see Granny on Sundays.

4. Weekends and public holidays

We use at to talk about the whole of the holidays at Christmas, New Year,
Easter and Thanksgiving (US)

  • Are you going away at Easter?

We use on to talk about one day of the holiday

  • It happened on Easter Monday.

British people say at the weekend. Americans use on.

  • What did you do at the weekend?

5. Longer periods

  • It happened in the week after  Christmas
  • I was born in March
  • Kent is beautiful in spring
  • He died in 1212
  • Our house was built in the 12th Century

6. Expressions without preposition

Prepositions are not used in expressions of time before
next, last, this, one, any, each, every, some, all.

  • See you next week.
  • Are you free this morning
  • Let’s meet one day.
  • Come any time
  • I’m at home every morning.
  • We stayed all day.

Prepositions are not used before yesterday, the day before yesterday,
tomorrow, the day after tomorrow

  • What are you doing the day after tomorrow?

In time or on time?

Sometimes two prepositions can be used with the same noun, but the meaning is different.

  • Lessons begin at 8.30 and I always arrive on time. (= at 8.30)
  • Lessons begin at 8.30 and I always get there in time. (= before 8.30; I’m not late)
  • In the end we went home. (= finally, after a long period)
  • At the end of the book they get married.
  • The two men are in business. (= they are businessmen)
  • The two men are in Germany on business. (= they are there for work and not for a holiday)
  • I’ll see you in a moment. (= very soon)
  • I can’t speak to you at the moment. (= right now)

On time and in time

On time = punctual, not late.
If something happens on time, it happens at the time which was planned:

  • The 11.45 train left on time. (= it left at 11.45)
  • Til meet you at 7.30.’   ‘OK, but please be on time.’ (= don’t be late, be there at 7.30
  • The conference was well-organised. Everything began and finished on time.

The opposite of on time is late:

  • Be on time. Don’t be late.

In time (for something / to do something) = soon enough:

  • Will you be home in time for dinner?
    (= soon enough for dinner)
  • I’ve sent Emma a birthday present. 1 hope it arrives in time (for her birthday).
    (= on or before her birthday)
  • I’m in a hurry. I want to be home in time to see the game on television.
    (= soon enough to see the game)

The opposite of in time is too late:

  • I got home too late to see the game on television.

You can say just in time (= almost too late):

  • We got to the station just in time for our train.
  • A child ran into the road in front of the car – I managed to stop just in time.

List I

idea or ideal? Bristolians have particular difficulty
distinguishing between these two because
of the intrusive Bristol ‘l’. These exemplar
sentences should help:
Your IDEA is brilliant.
This is an IDEAL spot for a picnic.
His IDEALS prevent him from eating meat.
indexes or indices? Both are acceptable plural forms of ‘index’
but they are used differently.
Use INDEXES to refer to alphabetical lists
of references in books.
Use INDICES in mathematical, economic
and technical contexts.
inter-/intra- The prefix INTER- means between or
among (e.g. international).
The prefix INTRA- means within, on the
inside (e.g. intravenous).
-ise or -ize? Most words ending with this suffix can be
spelt -ise or -ize in British English.
American English is more prescriptive and
insists on -ize whenever there is a choice.
House-styles in Britain vary from
publisher to publisher and from
newspaper to newspaper. (You may have
noticed that in this book I favour -ise.)
When making your choice, bear these
two points in mind:
” These nineteen words have to be -ise:
advertise, advise, apprise, arise,
chastise, circumcise, comprise,
compromise, despise, devise, disguise,
enfranchise, excise, exercise,
improvise, revise, supervise, surprise,
” Only one verb of more than one
syllable has to be -ize: capsize.
(One syllabled verbs like ‘seize’ still
need care, of course.)
Whatever you decide, be consistent within
one piece of writing and be consistent
with derivatives. If you use ‘realize’ in
one paragraph, you must use ‘realization’
and not ‘realisation’ at another point in
the same piece. If you use ‘sympathize’,
then you must refer to ‘sympathizers’ and
not to ‘sympathisers’ elsewhere.
Many authorities prefer to use -ize when
there is a choice. In practice, many
writers prefer to use -ise because this
choice is relatively trouble-free.
The decision is yours!

prepositions: in and into

1. To talk about the position of something (with no movement), we use in.

  • Where’s Susie? In the bedroom.
  • My mother’s the woman in the chair by the window.

2. When we talk about a movement, we usually use into.

  • She came into my room holding a paper.
  • I walked out into the garden to think.

After some words, both are possible. (For example throw, jump, cut, push).
We prefer into when we think of the movement, and in when we think of the end of the movement-
the place where something will be.


  • She threw her ring into the air.
  • She threw her ring in(to) the river.

We use in after sit down, and very after put.

  • He sat down in his favourite armchair (NOT He sat down into…)
  • I put my hand in my pocket.