At / In / On - English Prepositions

Prepositions - Lesson #2

"At", "in", and "on" are prepositions are that often used to show time, place, or position.

In this lesson, we will cover everything you need to know about these prepositions.

First, let's talk about using "at", "in", and "on" to tell when.

Prepositions of time
  1. Use "at" with a specific time (at 10 p.m.)
  2. Use "in" with a year, month, season, or time period (in 1986/in the summer/in July)
  3. Use "on" with one day (on Monday / my birthday)
Take a look at some examples.
  • The movie starts at 8 o'clock.
  • My work starts at 9 a.m.
  • I fell asleep at midnight.
  • She will arrive at around 5 pm.
  • I swim in the summer.
  • He works in the morning.
  • Life was hard for people in the Stone Age.
  • I don't like to travel in January. It is too cold.
  • Men give their girlfriend or wife a present on Valentine's Day.
  • I practice baseball on Saturday and Sunday.
  • My birthday is on May 25th.
  • They will be happy on their wedding day.
  • She goes to the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Note: We never say "in the night". Instead, we say "at night". This is an exception to the rule.

Now, let's talk about using "at", "in", and "on" to tell where.

Prepositions of place
  1. Use "at" with a place (at the store)
  2. Use "in" with countries, cities, and places (in China/in Paris/in the store)
  3. Use "on" with a surface (on the table)
Study the examples below.
  • I work at the bookstore.
  • She studies at the library.
  • He works in England.
  • We exercise in the park.
  • The book is on my bed.
  • The boy sits on the chair.
Sometimes, "at" or "in" can be used in the same sentence.
  • I play in the park.
    (=I play at the park.)

  • We study in the coffee shop.
    (=We study at the coffee shop.)
The reason is that person is both "at" and "inside" of the place.

We can also use "at", "in", and "on" to tell the position of something.

Prepositions of Position

Here are some common phrases used with "at" "in", and "on". These tell the location of something.


in a boxin my headin the oceanin a river
in a swimming poolin the showerin a bookin a line
in a rowin an officein a magazinein a newspaper
in bedin the countrysidein the cityin the front
in the backin the backin that photoin the corner
in the skyin the universein the worldin your hand
in my earin the mountainsin my nosein my eye


at the traffic lightat the doorat the tableat the front desk
at the next stopat the intersectionat churchat the window
at a partyat a concertat a showat a game


on the wallon the ceilingon the flooron the ground
on your faceon my handon a pageon an island
on the tableon the beachon the grasson a chair
on your shirton my pantson the dooron a sign
on the lefton the righton a menuon a list
on the second flooron a farmon a mapon a street

Obviously, depending on the situation we might have to change the article.
  • I want to swim in an ocean.
  • I want to swim in that ocean.
  • I want to swim in the Pacific Ocean.
  • I have never swum in any ocean.
Using a different preposition can change the meaning of the sentence. For example, "in the river" and "on the river" are two very different things.
  • Many fish live in the river.
  • The boats float on the river.
Remember that these are just some common examples. There are many more nouns that we can use with "at", "in", or "on" to show where something is located.

Pay attention to how native speakers use these and how they are used in English books, newspapers, etc. Then, try to remember and use them the same way when you speak.

Use the English prepositions you learned in this lesson to practice speaking English. First practice by answering the questions and completing the sentences. Then try making your own.

When is your birthday?
What days do you study English?
Where do you study?
Where do you hang out with your friends?
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
What was on TV last night?
What time do you wake up?
What time do you go to work or school?
What year did you graduate high school?
What is on your table at your home?

I like to _______________ at _______________.
We _______________ in _______________.
She enjoys _______________ at _______________.
I study English at _______________.
Tonight, I will eat dinner at _______________.
There is _______________ on the wall.
There are _______________ in my bag.
I am sitting on _______________.
There are _______________ on the table.