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10/10/2016

Prepositionsoftimeandplacearticle|Onestopenglish

NumberoneforEnglishlanguageteachers

Prepositionsoftimeandplacearticle
Type:Referencematerial
Anarticleonapproachestoteachingtheprepositionsoftimeandplace,at,inandon.
Introduction1.Prepositionsoftime2.Prepositionsofplace3.Prepositionsat/in/onextendedmeanings

Introduction
WhydowesayThebankisonGrimshawLane.andShelivesat132GainsboroughAvenue,butnot*Shelivesin132
GainsboroughAvenueor*ThebankisatGrimshawLane?
Manylearnersandteacherssometimesviewtheusageandmeaningofprepositionsasasecretthatcantbeunlocked.
However,ifweexaminethesyntacticenvironmentsofsuchkeyprepositionssystematically,patternsofusageandcore
meaningconceptsemergewhichcanaidexplanationandlearning.
Theprepositionsat,inandonareoftenusedinEnglishtotalkaboutplaces(positions)andtimes.Sometimesthe
choiceofoneoveranotherinaparticularphraseorsentenceseemsarbitrary.Howeverifweanalysepatternsof
occurrencewecanidentifykeyconceptsinmeaningandusagewhichconsistentlyapplyandcanbeusedasaplatform
forlearning.

1.Prepositionsoftime
TheprepositionATisusedinthefollowingdescriptionsoftime:
Withclocktimes:
Mylasttrainleavesat10:30.
Weleftatmidnight.
Themeetingstartsattwothirty.
Withspecifictimesofday,ormealtimes:
Hedoesntlikedrivingatnight.
Illgoshoppingatlunchtime.
Iliketoreadthechildrenastoryatbedtime.
Withfestivals:
AreyougoinghomeatChristmas/Easter?
Incertainfixedexpressionswhichrefertospecificpointsintime:
Areyouleavingattheweekend?**
Shesworkingatthemoment.
Hesunavailableatpresent.
IfinishthecourseattheendofApril.
Wearrivedatthesametime.
**NotethatinAmericanEnglish,ontheweekendisthecorrectform.
TheprepositionINisusedinthefollowingdescriptionsoftime:
Withmonths,years,seasons,andlongerperiodsoftime:
Iwasbornin1965.
WeregoingtovisittheminMay.
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Thepoolisclosedinwinter.
Hewasfamousinthe1980s.
TheplayissetintheMiddleAges.
Theyvedoneworkformeinthepast.
Withperiodsoftimeduringtheday:
Hesleavinginthemorning.
Sheusuallyhasasleepintheafternoon(s).
Itriedtoworkintheevening.
Todescribetheamountoftimeneededtodosomething:
Theymanagedtofinishthejobintwoweeks.
Youcantravelthereandbackinaday.
Toindicatewhensomethingwillhappeninthefuture:
Shellbereadyinafewminutes.
Hesgoneawaybuthellbebackinacoupleofdays.
TheprepositionONisusedinthefollowingdescriptionsoftime:
Withdaysoftheweek,andpartsofdaysoftheweek:
IllseeyouonFriday.
SheusuallyworksonMondays.
WeregoingtothetheatreonWednesdayevening.
NotethatinspokenEnglish,onisoftenomittedinthiscontext,e.g.:IllseeyouFriday.
Withdates:
Theinterviewison29thApril.
HewasbornonFebruary14th1995.
Withspecialdays:
ShewasbornonValentinesday.
WemovehouseonChristmasEve.
Ihaveanexamonmybirthday.
Ifweexaminethesedifferentaspectsofusageforthethreeprepositions,ageneralpatternemerges.Atisgenerallyused
inreferencetospecifictimesontheclockorpointsoftimeintheday.Ingenerallyreferstolongerperiodsoftime,
severalhoursormore.Onisusedwithdatesandnameddaysoftheweek.

2.Prepositionsofplace
TheprepositionATisusedinthefollowingdescriptionsofplace/position:
Withspecificplaces/pointsinspace:
Shekeptthehorseatanearbyfarm.
IhadacupofcoffeeatHelens(house/flat).
Angiesstillathome.
Illmeetyouatreception.
Theresamanatthedoor.
Isawherstandingatthebusstop.
Turnrightatthetrafficlights.
Theindexisatthebackofthebook.
Writeyournameatthetopofeachpage.
Withpublicplacesandshops:
Janesatthedentist/hairdresser.
IstudiedGermanatcollege/school/university.
ShallImeetyouatthestation?
Weboughtsomebreadatthesupermarket.
Withaddresses:
Theyliveat70,DuncombePlace.
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Withevents:
Imetheratlastyearsconference.ShewasntatSimonsparty.
TheprepositionONisusedinthefollowingdescriptionsofplace/position:
Withsurfaces,orthingsthatcanbethoughtofassurfaces:
Theletterisonmydesk.
Therewasabeautifulpaintingonthewall.
Thetoydepartmentisonthefirstfloor.
Writethenumberdownonapieceofpaper.
Youvegotadirtymarkonyourjumper.
Hehadalargespotonhisnose.
Sheplacedherhandonmyshoulder.
Withroads/streets,orotherthingsthatcanbethoughtofasaline,e.g.:rivers:
ThebankisonthecornerofKingsStreet.
KoblenzisontheRhine.
Bournemouthisonthesouthcoast.
Itsthesecondturningontheleft.
TheprepositionINisusedinthefollowingdescriptionsofplace/position:
Withgeographicalregions:
DrivinginFranceisverystraightforward.
Orgivaisaverysmallvillageinthemountains.
Withcities,townsandlargerareas:
DoyoulikelivinginNottingham?
Theywerehavingapicnicinthepark.
Sheworkssomewhereinthetoydepartment.
Withbuildings/roomsandplacesthatcanbethoughtofassurroundingapersonorobjectonallsides:
Canyoutakeaseatinthewaitingroomplease?
Iveleftmybagintheoffice.
Theresaweddinginthechurchthisafternoon.
Lotsofpeoplewereswimminginthelake
Withcontainers:
Theresfreshmilkinthefridge.
IthinkIvegotatissueinmypocket.
Themoneyisinthetopdrawerofmydesk.
Withliquidsandothersubstances,toshowwhattheycontain:
Doyoutakemilkinyourcoffee?
Icantastegarlicinthissauce.
Theresalotoffatincheeseandbutter.
Ageneralpatternagainemergesifweconsiderthesedifferentaspectsofusage.Wecanthinkofatasonedimensional,
referringtoaspecificplaceorpositioninspace.Onistwodimensional,referringtothepositionofsomethingin
relationtoasurface.Inisbycontrastthreedimensional,referringtothepositionofsomethinginrelationtothethings
thatsurroundit.Thinkingoftheprepositionsinthesetermshelpsusexplaincertainfacts.Forinstance,inisgenerally
usedforlargerplacesandatforsmaller,morespecificplaces,sowesay:
WearrivedinInvernesstwohoursago.
But:
Wearrivedatthecampsitetwohoursago.
However,ifwethinkofacityorlargerplaceasaspecificpointinspace,wecanuseat,e.g.:
ThetrainstopsatBirminghamandBristol.
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Orifwethinkofasmallerplaceasthreedimensional,wecanusein,e.g.:
Wevelivedinthislittlevillageformanyyears.
Returntotop

3.Prepositionsat/in/onextendedmeanings
Asystematicanalysisoftheoccurrenceoftheprepositionsat,inandonintheircoreusageasindicatorsoftimeand
place,helpsusestablishsomekeymeaningconceptswhichwillaidusinidentifyingandexplainingtheirextended
meanings:
atisamechanismfordenotingthespecific,itusuallyreferstofixedpointsintime(e.g.:clocktimes)and
specificpointsinspace.
onisamechanismwhichusuallydescribessomethinginrelationtoasecond,oftenlineardimension,henceit
relatestothecalendar(daysanddates)andsurfacesorlines.
inisamechanismfordescribingsomethinginrelationtothethingsthatsurrounditintimeorspace,henceit
relatestoperiodsoftimeandthreedimensionalspacesorcontainers.
ExtendedmeaningofAT
Atisusedforshowingspecifictemperatures,pricesandspeeds,etc.
Ticketsarenowonsaleat15each.
Hedenieddrivingat110milesperhour.
Andmoregenerallytotalkaboutthelevelorrateofsomething,e.g.:
Interestrateshavestayedatthislevelforseveralmonths.
Theloanrepaymentsaregoingupatanalarmingrate.
Atisusedtoshowwhensomeoneisaparticularage:,e.g.:
Hebegancomposingattheageof5.
Shechosenottoretireat65.
Atisusedtoshowthatanactivityisdirectedspecificallytowardssomeoneorsomething:
Hesalwaysshoutingatthechildren.
Jamiethrewtheballatthewall.
Whyareyoustaringatherlikethat?
Atisusedtoshowthespecificcauseofafeelingorreaction:
Audiencesstilllaughatherjokes.
Wewererathersurprisedatthenews.
ExtendedmeaningsofON
Onisusedtoshowmovementinthedirectionofasurface:
Wecouldheartherainfallingontheroof.
Idroppedmybagsonthefloor.
Onisusedtoshowwhenthesurfaceofsomethingaccidentallyhitsortouchesapartofthebody:
Icutmyfingeronasharpknife.
Shebangedherheadonthecupboarddoor.
Onisusedtoshowthatapartofsomeonesbodyissupportingtheirweight:
Shewasbalancingononeleg.
Hewasonhishandsandkneesunderthetable.
Onisusedtoshowthatsomethingisincludedinalist:
Hesnotonthelistofsuspects.
Howmanyitemsareontheagenda?
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Extendedmeaningsofin
Inisusedtoshowmovementtowardstheinsideofacontainer,placeorarea:
Sheputtheletterbackinherbriefcase..
Thefarmerfiredafewshotsintheair.
Inisusedtoshowwhensomethingispartofsomethingelse:
Ivefoundoneortwospellingmistakesinyouressay.
Whosthelittlegirlinthephotograph?
Thereareseveralvaluablepaintingsinthecollection.
Inisusedtoshowthatsomeoneiswearingsomething:
Doyouknowthatgirlintheblackdress?
Amaninabrownsuitwaswalkingtowardsher.
Inisusedtoshowhowthingsarearranged,expressedorwritten:
Wegatheredroundinacircle.
Theirnamesaregiveninalphabeticalorder.
Completetheforminblockcapitals.
ShespoketomeinSpanish.AnchorPoint:bottom

Readers'comments(7)
Anonymous|Mon,26Sep20169:36am
Excellent,thankyouverymuch!
WebEditor|Mon,22Aug20169:42am
Himisshanan,
You'remostwelcome!Thanksforthelovelyfeedback.Gladthatyoufoundthissouseful.
Bestwishesandhappyteaching,
Theonestopenglishteam
misshanan|Sat,20Aug20167:31pm
Thankyousomuch
tsielouvari|Fri,10Oct20147:44am
Veryhelpful,andclear.Thanks.
WebEditor|Mon,14Apr201411:53am
Thanksforyourcomments,we'regladyoufindthearticleuseful.Letusknowhowyouandyourstudentsgeton!
Anonymous|Mon,14Apr20145:05am
Iamgoingtousethisformystudents!Thankyousomuch!
esljohnny|Mon,11Jun20128:45pm
Thisisgreatmaterialforteachingaboutprepositions.MyGermanESLstudentshavesuchadifficulttime
understandinghowprepositionsareused.Thiswillbeagreathelpinexplainingthings.

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