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Prepositions for Time (temporal modifiers)

Indicate when the action occurs

plants
 

Prepositional Phrase vs Other Wording

PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE

A preposition for time (temporal preposition) expresses when the action in the clause takes place. One or more prepositions may be used in a series.  

COMPLEMENTS TO PREPOSITIONS

In the morning is the best time to water plants.

It is hottest in the middle of the day. (NP+PP)

The watering begins in the morning at the crack of dawn. (PP + PP)

Watering plants was a chore until recently. (Adv)

We water our plants before leaving. (Ger)

We water our plants before we leave. (clause)

We will water them less in the coming month. (Det + Adj + N)

OTHER WORDING

A similar meaning may be expressed with temporal nouns, temporal adverbs, frequency adverbs, serial adverbs, and so on. See list below.

OTHER WORD FORMS

Morning time is the best time to water plants. (NP) 

It is hottest mid-day. (N)

The watering begins early. (Adv)

Watering plants has become less of a chore recently. (Adv)

We'll water our plants. Then, we'll leave. (Adv)

We'll water our plants. Later, we'll leave. (Adv)

We will water them less next month. (Adv + N)

 

See Prepositional Complements regarding the range of structures that can follow a preposition.

Word Categories: N – noun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Det – determinative; P – preposition; PP – prepositional phrase; Adv – adverb; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adj – adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator; Interj – interjection

 

 

 

 

Temporal Expressions

Is it an adverb or some other word form?  (differentiation)

 

 

 

 

 

Prepositions for Time (temporal prepositions)

List

 

 

Temporal Prepositions

TEMPORAL PREPOSITIONS

after

afterward(s)

as soon as

as long as

between

by

in

into

once

then¹

TEMPORAL PREPOSITIONS (cont.)

ago

as

at

before

during

for

now

on

until

when / while

 

 

 

 
PREPOSITION SENTENCE EXAMPLES

AFTER

We'll leave after lunch. (N)  

We'll leave after eating. (Ger)

We'll leave after we eat. (Clause)

We left after. (PP) The object (complement) of the preposition is understood from context.

AFTERWARD(S)

We left afterwards.

AGO¹

We ate ten-minutes ago(ago occurs after its complement)

AS

We'll leave as they arrive.

AS SOON AS

We'll leave as soon as they arrive.

AS LONG AS

We won't leave as long as they try to make us leave.

AT

We'll leave at ten o'clock.

BEFORE

We'll leave before lunch. We'll leave before eating. We'll leave before we eat. We'll leave after.

BETWEEN

We'll leave between ten and eleven o'clock.

BY

We'll leave by eleven o'clock.  We'll leave by the time they arrive.

DURING

We'll leave during lunch.

FOR

We'll leave for a few minutes.

IN

We'll leave in five minutes. We'll leave in the morning.

INTO

We'll stay into the evening.

NOW

We'll leave now.

ON

We'll leave Sunday.

ONCE

We'll leave once they get here. (as soon as, when)

THEN

We'll leave then.

UNTIL

We won't leave until they make us leave. We won't leave until Sunday.

WHEN

We'll leave when we want to leave.  We'll call when arriving.

WHILE

We'll stay when they are eating.

¹ ago is a preposition that follows its complement (Huddleston 4 §4.2) 

 

 

 

 

Other Expressions for Time

Specify time with other word forms

 

 

Nouns and Determiners

NOUNS 

tonight 

He'll arrive tonight. [part of day¹]

today / yesterday / tomorrow

He's arriving today. [day¹]

Sunday 

He's arriving Monday. [day name only³]

*June

He's arriving *June.  (*winter)

DETERMINERS

this / that morning

[evening, afternoon¹]

this / that minute

[second, hour, moment²]

this / that winter

[Tuesday, March, summer³ ]

this / that *noon

[not used: noon or midnight]

 

¹ part of day or day– morning, afternoon, evening   (this+night = tonight; this+ day = today; this+morrow = tomorrow; that (prior)+day = yesterday) 

² clock or calendar unit of time – second, minute, hour, day, week, month, season, year, decade, century

³ named period – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, January, February, March, winter, spring, autumn (fall) summer. 

*not used  (instead use: at noon or at noon today, at midnight or midnight tonight)  See the next section "in, on, at".

 

 

Adjectives and Serial Adverbs

ADJECTIVES

tomorrow morning

[¹afternoon, evening]

We'll leave tomorrow afternoon..

next week

 [week², Tuesday³, June³, fall³]

We'll leave next June.

yesterday morning

[¹afternoon, evening]

We left yesterday afternoon.

last week

 [week², Tuesday³, June³, winterl³]

We saw them last week.

SERIAL ADVERBS

the next morning  

[afternoon¹, day², week, month]

The next day, we left early.

in the next moment

[minute, decade, century²]

In the next century, change occurred.

the last time  

[time]

The last time, we left too late.

at the last moment

[minute, second]

At the last moment, he change his mind.

 

this (demonstrative determiner); again, first, last, next (serial adverbs) Huddleston 6 §7

I'll have some time in the next week.I'll have some time in the coming week. (some time within the period of a week, month, or year)

Compare the rewording of time in direct and indirect speech:  "Tomorrow morning, I will leave earlier." to He said that he would leave earlier the next morning. See Deixis (perspective).

 

 

 

 

In On At

Specify small to greater amounts of time

 

 

Time—In / On / At

RELATIVE PRECISENESS

At is followed by an hour of day (clock time, name of hour). On is followed by a calendar day of the week or month (day name, day/month/year). In is followed by greater amounts of  time (season, year, decade, century, era, epoch).

AT HOUR

We'll meet you outside

at 2 PM.

at nine o'clock.

at noon.

at midnight.

ON DAY

We'll leave

on Sunday. (M, Tu, W, Th, F, Sa)

on Monday night.

on November 1.

on November 16, 2018

IN MONTH / YEAR / ERA

The event took place

 

in May (Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr.)

in 2020.

in the 21th century.

in the Pleistocene Epoch.

EXPRESSIONS

Some expressions include smaller or larger periods of time (rather than calendar or clock time). Other expression are idioms.                                                                                                                                                                                                

AT – SHORT PERIOD AT – OTHER

at  the beginning of the day

at  the end of the week

at  the summer solstice

 

at high noon   (sun is overhead)

at a moment's notice ("immediately")

at the drop of a hat ("immediately")

ON – PERIOD OF TiME ON – OTHER

on Tuesday morning.

on the weekend.

on  summer evenings

on  winter mornings

on  the dot ("exactly on time")

on  time ("at expected time")

on a summer schedule (temp.)

on Daylight Savings Time (DST)

IN – PERIOD OF TiME IN – OTHER

in the morning. (evening, afternoon)

in summer. (winter, spring, fall)

in the 1990s.

   

in a second. (minute, while)

in time² ("perhaps late but OK")

once in a blue moon¹ (rarely)

 

Also see Prepositions for Time (in, on, at) and Prepositions for Place (in, on, at).

¹once in a blue moon — a second full moon in one calendar month.  See Blue Moon.

² in time (expression) – perhaps arriving late for the expected time but still not too late to successfully participate

solstice (N) – either of the two times a year when the sun is at its greatest distance from earth's equator (about June 21) or, when the sun reaches its northernmost point on the earth (about December 22) when it reaches its southernmost point.

 

 

 

 

By "x time"

Specify an "end" time

 

 

By X Time

IN, ON, AT

A  specific time – not earlier or later. 

I had to be there at noon to catch the bus.  (exactly)

We arrived at their house on Wednesday evening. (exactly)

He reached Istanbul in June, 1906.  (exactly)

BY

A time before but not later than this time.  Use by to specify an "end"  or completion time.

I had to be there by noon to catch the bus. (no later)

We arrived at their house by Wednesday evening. (no later)

He reached Istanbul by June, 1906.  (no later)

 

See By the time.

 

 

 

 

On Time / In Time

Indicate precise or sufficient time

 

 

On Time vs. In Time

ON TIME

On time specifies an exact time: "not before or later than this time".

Please get here on time for your meeting.

The plane departed on time.

We arrived on time to see the movie. (We saw the movie and the Previews.)
 

IN TIME

In time indicates a time before or slightly after the appointed time: "sufficient to do the intended activity"

Please get here in time to see him. (Arrive some time before he leaves.)

We arrived just in time to catch the plane. (We were near last to get on.)

We arrived in time to see the movie. (We may have missed the previews but saw the movie.)

 

sufficient (Adj) – enough

 

 

 

 

Introductory Phrases

Emphasizing the timing of an activity

 

 

Emphsis vs. Non-emphasis Placement

EMPHASIS PLACEMENT

use a commaOften we move a time adverb (prepositional phrase ) to the front of the sentence to emphasize the time, or to use the time as a parallel lead-in (for two or more sentences.)

In the morning, I like to eat something that is light.

In the afternoon, I am ready for a big meal of meat or vegetables.

In the evening, I like to eat leftovers and then something sweet with a cup of tea.
 

NORMAL PLACEMENT

use no commaWhen the time adverb is moved after the verb, the phrase is in its normal, non-emphasis position.                                                                                                                   

I like to eat something that is light in the morning.

I am ready for a big meal of meat and vegetables In the afternoon.

I like to eat leftovers and then something sweet with a cup of tea In the evening.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepositional Phrases

Uses (functions) in a clause

 

 

Subject or Predicate Complement

SUBJECT

A prepositional phrase may function as the subject of a clause or as a modifier to the subject noun (complement to the head noun).

SUBJECT PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
PP V NP

At noon

is

 

our lunchtime.

NOUN *MODIFIER PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
N + PP V NP

Lunch at noon

is

our breaktime.

NOUN *MODIFIER PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
N + PP V N [IO] + NP [DO]

The woman upstairs

handed³

us our lunch.

PREDICATE COMPLEMENT

A prepositional phrase may also function as the complement to the predicate (verb) or as a modifier to the object noun.

SUBJECT PREDICATE COMPLEMENT
N V PP

Lunch

Lunchtime

is 

occurs¹

at noon.

SUBJECT PREDICATE PRED COMP
N V N [DO] + PP

We

are having²

lunch at noon.

SUBJECT PREDICATE OBJ COMPLEMENT
N V N[IO]+NP [DO]+PP

She

handed³

us our lunch in a box.

 

¹ intransitive verb— does not require an object as its complement

² transitive verb—takes an object as its complement, DO direct object or IO indirect object

³ ditransitive verb—takes an indirect object IO and a direct object DO

Categories: N – noun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; PP – prepositional phrase

*In linguistic analysis, this prepositional phrase is a complement to the head noun not a modifier.  (CaGEL 24)

Also see Prepositional Phrases of Place — subject or complement.

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

We met for lunch in afternoon.

I'll see you in the night.

SOLUTION

We met for lunch in the afternoon.

BUT: We met for lunch at noon (no article)

I'll see you tonight. ("this night")

BUT: I'll see you in the morning (article)

 

*not used

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Travel Times

wagon train
 

 

Read the Context

Traveling __ the 19th century was quite different from now.  __ the 1800s, people traveled by horse and carriage.  A hundred mile trip might be completed __ four to five days. A coach or a wagon could travel just three to four miles __ an hour. Wagons traveling the Oregon Trail made the trip __ four to five months. Coach or wagon travel usually had to stop __ sunset (dusk). Travel was difficult __ the early spring. Wagons had to cross snowy mountain passes __ the warmest time of the year.  A wagon had to reach its destination __ time to find shelter (protection from the weather). For travelers, the weather could turn bad __ the drop of a hat.

Nowadays, a person can travel hundreds of miles away__ just a couple hours. A person can leave New York __ 9:00 a.m. and be in London seven hours later __ 9:20 p.m. Weather affects travelers less— only __ the coldest winter months. Travelers expect their trains to leave __ the dot.  Perhaps travel in the future will take place __ a snap.

drop of a hat (expression) – a brief t moment

 

 

 

 

Complete the sentence.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-10" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.
the warmest time of the year.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

"Night" expression

nighttime

 

 

Correct or Incorrect?

  1. Select a response correct or incorrect.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 11-20" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

16.
My flight leaves at six in the night.

     

17.
I like to go out at the night.

     

18.
It is cold here in the nighttime.

     

19.
The moon comes out at night.

     

20.
The full moon will be on Saturday night.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Early to bed, Early to Rise

Ben Franklin and daylight savings time
 

 

Read for Errors

Ancient civilizations adjusted daily schedules to the sun. For example, Roman water clocks had different amounts of times for different months in the year. Rome's third hour from sunrise, hora tertia, started at 09:02 solar time and lasted 44 minutes in the winter solstice, but in the summer solstice started at 06:58 and lasted 75 minutes.  Unequal hours are still used in a few traditional settings, such as some Mount Athos monasteries in Greece.

In 1784, Benjamin Franklin proposed taxing the use of shutters and candles, or ringing church bells to wake up lazy people who were sleeping late on the morning during the summertime. However, Benjamin Franklin did not propose adjusting the clocks because, like ancient Rome, 18th-century Europe did not keep precise schedules on that time.  Much later, communication networks required time standardization, and travel required people to be on time.

"Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." — Benjamin Franklin

Then on 1895, George Hudson, from New Zealand, proposed Daylight Savings Time (DST) in a paper to a philosophical society. He argued that people could take better advantage of the daylight if they got up two hours earlier in summer mornings. On April, 17, 1916, Brandon, Manitoba became the first location in the world to use DST. Shortly after that, in April 1916, Germany and its World War I allies began DST as a way to conserve coal during wartime.  The Allies and the US adopted DST in the end of the war in 1918. Since then, the world has seen many adjustments to DST.

A move to "permanent daylight saving time" (staying in summer hours all year with no time shifts) is sometimes talked about.  In fact, the United Kingdom stayed on daylight saving time from 1968 to 1971.  However, quite a few countries have never used DST such as Afghanistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Venezuela.  Similarly, equatorial countries, like Ecuador, find no benefit to the time change as they have an equal number of daylight hours on summer and in winter.

adjust (V) – change

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. — a saying that is an encouragement to hard, diligent work

propose (V) – suggest something in an official way

solstice – either of the two times a year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator

 

 

 

Edit for Errors

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 21-30" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

21.
Ancient civilizations adjusted daily schedules to the sun. For example, Roman water clocks had different amounts of times for different months on the year.


22.
Rome's third hour from sunrise, hora tertia, started by modern standards at 09:02 solar time and lasted 44 minutes in the winter solstice, but in the summer solstice started at 06:58 and lasted 75 minutes.


23.
In 1784, Benjamin Franklin proposed taxing the use of shutters and candles, or ringing church bells to wake up lazy people who were sleeping late on the morning during the summertime.


24.
However, Benjamin Franklin did not propose adjusting the clocks because, like ancient Rome, 18th-century Europe did not keep precise schedules on that time.


25.
Much later, communication networks required time standardization, and travel required people to be in time.


26.
Then on 1895, George Hudson, from New Zealand, proposed Daylight Savings Time (DST) in a paper to a philosophical society.


27.
He argued that people could take better advantage of the daylight if they got up two hours earlier in summer mornings.


28.
At April, 17, 1916, Brandon, Manitoba became the first location in the world to use DST.


29.
Shortly after that, in April 1916, Germany and its World War I allies began DST as a way to conserve coal during wartime.


30.
The Allies and the US adopted DST in the end of the war in 1918.


31.
A move to "permanent daylight saving time" (staying in summer hours all year with no time shifts) is sometimes talked about.


32.
Similarly, equatorial countries, like Ecuador, find no benefit to the time change as they have an equal number of daylight hours on summer and in winter.