How to use the English prepositions IN, AT, ON

In this post you will learn how to correctly use the English prepositions IN, AT, and ON for time and place. 8 custom infographics and LOTS of real examples!

Dave can’t find his smartphone.  – Maybe the phone is in my bedroom?

English prepositions with place
IN = inside 

We use IN with rooms

Jessica is in the living room.

I’ve got lots of tools in my garage.

We use IN with cities, countries, areas etc.

I was in Osaka last week on a business trip, but I’m sure I brought my phone back to Tokyo. I used it to call a taxi last night.

Trevor lived in Brazil for 3 years.

A: I like to hike in the mountains.
B: Really? I prefer to hike in the woods.

We use IN with water

I think I put it in my locker at the gym before I changed and went in the pool.

There are big, beautiful, orange and white-colored fish in my friend’s koi pond.

When I was young my family had a cottage, I used to spend hours in the lake.

English prepositions IN with places

Maybe I left my phone at the reception desk of the gym? 

English prepositions with place AT

We do an action [verb] AT a place

We waited at the bus stop.

Let’s meet at the train station.

AT = beside or close to

Someone is at my door.

There is a bird at my window.

We use IN with rooms but AT with buildings and places.

Trevor is at school/ at the office/ at the store/ at home.

English prepositions AT with places

Maybe I left my phone on the bench in the change room? (It’s touching the top of the bench.)

English prepositions with place – ON

We use ON with surfaces
ON = surface or contact (touching)

I have pictures of my family on my desk at work.

The flowers are lovely! I think I’ll put them on the dining room table.

There is a big photo of a bodybuilder on the gym wall. (A picture, poster, shelf etc. is touching the wall.)

Let’s hang this painting on the north wall of the living room.

I just put a bookshelf on my bedroom wall. Now I have a place for my books, I don’t have to leave them on the floor. (Something is on the floor.)

Don’t eat that! It was on the floor.

We say on a page…

They just printed our school yearbooks. My photo is on page 52.

We say on a part of the body…

Watch out! There is a bee on your shoulder!

Theresa has a tattoo of a rose on her ankle.

English prepositions ON with places

English prepositions with time – IN

We use in with longer amounts of time. You can think of in as inside, but inside an amount of time, not inside a place.

Andrea and Charlie are talking about a trip. (and gardening!)

A: Charlie, are you still thinking about going to Brazil in April? (Inside the month of April.)
C: I’m not sure. It’s a good time to leave work, but it’s the beginning of Spring. I want to grow beautiful flowers this year so I need to start planting and preparing my garden in Spring. (Inside the season)
A: I see. If you plant your seeds in April, you’ll have beautiful flowers in June.
C: That’s right. Hopefully I’ll have another chance to go to Brazil in the future. (Inside the future)

English prepositions IN with time 1

We also use IN to mean – from now

I’ll be ready in 10 minutes. (10 minutes from now)
Trent ordered a new TV. It will be delivered in 3 days. (3 days from now)
Dave is going to visit Canada in 2 months. (2 months from now)

IN with time can mean FROM NOW

We use AT for the time of day

Alex and Christy are making plans to meet.

9:30 am
C: Shall we meet after work at 6:00?
A: Actually I’d like to go home right after work, I’m really tired today. I woke up at sunrise this morning.
C: Wow! That’s early, why don’t we meet at lunchtime? Maybe 12:30?
A: That sounds great! See you at 12:30.

English prepositions AT with time

We use ON for specific days and dates

Adam and Carrie are talking about their weekend.

A: What did you do on Saturday Carrie?
C: I went camping in the mountains! It was beautiful. I had a campfire, watched the stars, slept in a tent and I came home on Sunday.
A: That sounds great. I love camping, my friend and I are going to go camping at Reed Lake next month on the 18th. 
C: My Dad used to take me camping to Reed Lake every year on my birthday.

Grammar point – We verb at a place (action word)
Go camping at Reed Lake.

BUT we take someone/something to a place
Take me to Reed Lake.


English prepositions ON with time

Don’t forget!

We say: 
in the morning
in the afternoon
in the evening

The best time to exercise is in the morning.
I’m busy Thursday, but I have some free time on Friday in the afternoon.
I like to take a walk after dinner. The air is much cooler in the evening.

BUT we say:
at night

You should walk with a friend. It’s not safe to walk alone at night.

IN/AT with morning, afternoon, evening and night.

Some preposition definitions with more examples at Oxford English Dictionaries dot com.

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