English grammar help: Tricky Prepositions – in, on, at

ON english prepositions

English grammar can be tricky, and one area that many students find particularly difficult is prepositions. A preposition links nouns, pronouns, and phrases to other words in a sentence.

I’m sorry, I know they are hard to get your head around and I wish I could make them go away, but I can’t. So, my next best offer is to try and help you get comfortable with using them. Let’s do a quick review of when to use three of the most common ones: in, on, and at.

Preposition: IN

Use: When talking about time, we use ‘in’ when referring to an unspecific time of the day, a month, a season or a year.

Here are some examples:

  • “I always brush my teeth in the morning.”
  • “My birthday is in June.”
  • “It’s always cold in winter.”
  • “My brother was born in 1999.”

Use 2: When talking about places, ‘in’ is used to indicate a location or place. Here are a few examples:

  • “I used to live in Florida.”
  • “The city of Bangkok is in Thailand.”
  • “I am in my room.”

Preposition: ON

Use: The word ‘on’, when talking about time, is for specific dates and days.

Some examples are:

  • “He was born on September 24th.”
  • “I go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays.”

Preposition: AT

Use 1: When talking about places, ‘on’ is used when we are speaking about a surface. Something is on the surface of something else.

For example:

  • “The papers are on the coffee table.”
  • “I left the keys on the counter.”

Use 2: When talking about time, ‘at’ is used for a specific time.

So for example:

  • “I will see you at 8:00 pm.”
  • “My interview is at 3:00 pm.”

Use 3: When talking about places, ‘at’ is used to indicate a specific place.

Some examples are:

  • “We are meeting at the cafe.”
  • “The football game is at the stadium.”

Let’s practice with the next exercise!

1. I live ___ a house.
2. We will meet ___ 5:00 pm.
3. My birthday is ___ May 5th.
4. The last Olympics were held ___ 2012.
5. I usually study ___ Sundays.
6. My books were ___ this table, where did they go?
7. They left ___ 9:00 am.
8. We met ___ the park.
9. I like taking a nap ___ the afternoon.
10. It rains a lot ___ spring.

It will surely take time and practice to become an expert at using prepositions, but keep on trying and it will eventually stick!

Answers: in, at, on, in, on, on, at, at, in, in.

Image: Moyan Brenn.

Article related: English grammar help: Common Prepositions

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