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Learning Prepositions: AT, ON, and IN | English Version

Texto escrito por Jill Campanella-Dysart


At, on, and in are some of the most difficult words in English. During this lesson, we will cover how to use these words when talking about both time and place.


At, on, and in - Time


A good general rule to guide you is that at is used for a specific time, on is used for a more broad time, and in is used for the broadest amount of time.


In the sentences below, at indicates a specific time. At is usually used for the smallest portions of time.

  • I will meet you there at 12:30.

  • My next meeting is at 8:00 tomorrow.


On is less specific. On usually indicates the day something will happen:

  • Let’s meet on Saturday.

  • On Christmas Eve, I was with my family.


If you like, you can mix the two:

  • At noon on Christmas Eve, my family and I took a walk.


In is broader still. In is used to indicate the week, month, year, or season,

  • I like to go to the beach in the summer.

  • We planned to get married in May, but we cannot


* In has another use in time. It can indicate the time left before a future event:

  • In two weeks, my vacation will start.

  • My husband will retire in six years.


At, on, and in - Place


Similar to the previous section, at is used for a specific place or address.

  • Let’s meet at the park

  • I want to have a glass of wine at home.

  • She lives at 112 West Third Street.


On is used to indicate transport by bicycle, bus, train, plane, or large boat.

  • I am on the bus.

  • She will arrive on her bike.

  • They went to Italy on a boat.


In is a little more complicated with some exceptions. In is used to indicate placement in houses, rooms, cities, provinces and countries. It is also used for transport by car, taxi, or in some cases, boat.

  • We are finally in Brazil!

  • He rode here in a taxi.

  • I think Susan is in the living room.

  • When we arrived, he was sitting in his boat.


* Notice that boat can take both on and in. When the boat is a small personal boat, such as a canoe or a kayak, in is used. When the boat is larger, on is used.


When talking about object placement, in can be used in place of “inside” and on can be used in place of “on top of.” There are a few exceptions, but this is a good general rule.


I put the book on the table

He put the letter in the envelope.

We cannot go in, the building is locked.


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