In, at, on, to, for, by?   Prepositions are one of the hardest grammar points for learners of Business English to get right. For many people, the rules – if they even exist – seem illogical. Why is it correct to say in English that are we ‘on’ the bus, and not ‘in’ the bus??

(to a non-native speaker, this could sound like we are on the outside of the train, clinging to the roof!)

As a result most learners resort to a sort of guessing game, where they are never 100% sure in conversation if they have chosen the right preposition.

In this week’s online lesson, we’ll be looking at some of the most common English prepositions for time, and after you have read the rules, you can test your knowledge with our online quiz to see if you have improved.

So, let’s get started!

In

We use the preposition ‘in’ when we are talking about something happening in a time period of  a month or a year. For example: “The meeting is in March”  “We met in 2012″.  We can also use ‘in’ and ‘the’ in front of time periods such as morning, or afternoon: “I have a conference call in the morning – can we meet later instead?” Note: We cannot then use ‘in’ and ‘the’ in combination with adjectives or adverbs of time like ‘tomorrow’ or demonstrative pronouns like ‘this’. For example, this would be wrong: “We’re meeting the supplier in tomorrow morning”.
Correct would be: “We’re meeting the supplier tomorrow”.

On

For days of the week, we use the preposition ‘on’. For example:  “I’ll send you the documents on Friday.” We can also add more specific information to this to create: “We’ll send you the documents on Friday morning.”

Indians sitting on top of train

“I’m on the train” – British English shouldn’t always be taken literally

 

With American English, you can also use the preposition ‘on’ to describe something taking place at the weekend: “I’ll see you on the weekend”. Note: in British English we would use ‘at’ – “I’ll see you at the weekend.

Now comes the tricky part: previously we learnt that if we use a month like March, April, May etc. we use the preposition ‘in’ – but if we are specific about an exact date we use ‘on’.

Compare the two examples:  “We’ll take delivery of the parts on the 22nd of June 2014.”   But “We’ll receive the goods in June.”

At

We have already discussed that in British English we can use ‘at’ in combination with the weekend. We also use it when we discuss holidays or special events: “I always eat too much chocolate  at Easter!” “I always drink too much at Oktoberfest!” “At Christmas, it’s even worse .”

We also use ‘at’ for times: “The meeting starts at 4.30pm. Don’t be late!”   “We’re meeting the client at midday.”

No preposition

The good news is sometimes a prepositions isn’t necessary at all! Words like next, last, yesterday, never have a preposition before them. Think of your own language and it is quite likely the same. For example in German, there is also no preposition before “nächste Woche, letzte Nacht” uzw.

 

Online English Quiz:

Now you know the rules on English prepositions of time, try the English preposition online below:

 

1. I have a meeting ___ Tuesday.
 
 
 
2. Are you going to the trade fair___tomorrow?
 
 
 
 
3. “Shall we schedule the meeting for tomorrow morning at 10am?”

“Sorry, I can’t make that. I already have an appointment ___ the morning at 10am.  But perhaps later in the afternoon?
 
 
 
 
4. “I thought you had already spoken to the supplier?”“No, that’s happening ____ Friday morning”
 
 
 
 
5. “You look tired!”“Yes, I am knackered! ___yesterday I went to yoga, to the beer garden and afterwards to the disco!”
 
 
 
 
6. “What did you do___last night?”
 
 
 
 
 
7. “So, if i understood you correctly, we have the presentation ___next week?”
 
 
 
 
8. “We need to change something if we are to meet the deadline.”“Agreed. I’m meeting Jorg  ___ the 18th of March. I’ll ask him if we can get more people on the project.”
 
 
 
 
9. “Any plans this weekend?”

___the weekend, I’m walking with some friends in the Alps.”

Choose 2 options.
 
 
 
 
10. “There is always so much to do  ___ Christmas.”
 
 
 
 
11. “The next talk starts ___ 9am. The topic is Strategic IT management.”
 
 
 
 
12. “I don’t think our office in Hong Kong has understood the concept of time difference. Last night I got a call  ___ midnight!”
 
 
 
 
13. ___ April we’ll be moving offices to somewhere nicer.”
 
 
 
 
14. ” Thank you for everyone joining us today in celebrating our company anniversary. ___ 1995 we started the business. Since then, we have…”
 
 
 
 

 

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