Mastering Prepositions: When to Use ‘In,’ ‘At,’ and ‘On’ in English Grammar

11 May 2024 / Team Fun English Course

English is easy-breezy once you know and understand when to use ‘in,’ ‘at,’ and ‘on’ – while simple, these hold immense power in English grammar. In addition to being linchpins that connect elements within a sentence, prepositions guide listeners and readers through the maze or meaning. 

Correctly using prepositions allows you to create clarity and craft compelling communication – enhancing your language skills significantly.

Learning English Prepositions: The Meaning and Rules

A sentence will have a clear meaning when you put prepositions in it. The presence of these words connects and relates various sentence elements to each other. 

Typically, the connectors come before nouns or pronouns. In addition to indicating relationships in time and place, they clear the connection in direction and possession. Below is how these connectors work in sentences.

1. When It Happened – Preposition of Time

Preposition of time

Telling your friend when something occurs requires you to use prepositions. To avoid any confusion, please use:

  • ‘In’ for long periods, such as months, years, centuries, etc.
  • ‘On’ for dates and days, such as on August 17th, Sunday, etc.
  • ‘At’ for a precise period – at midnight, 7 a.m., and so on.

2. Preposition of Place – Where the Event Occurred

Learning English prepositions

As its name suggests, this preposition helps you to pinpoint locations. However, pay attention to these differences:

  • ‘At’ is something you use for a specific spot, like at your friend’s house, at the gas station, etc.
  • ‘On’ tells a surface or part of something. You can use it for “on the roof,” “on the floor,” and so on.
  • ‘In’ indicates things in general or enclosed, such as in the drawer, in London, etc.

3. Direction

Language skills

Prepositions can also show direction or movement. ‘To’ implies you move toward a destination (e.g., driving to the bank). Meanwhile, ‘from’ helps you to show the origin (drinking from the coffee shop nearby, etc.). 

You can also use ‘into’ to show movement towards the inside of a place, such as walking into the room.

4. Possession

When to use ‘in,’ ‘at,’ and ‘on.’

How do I use prepositions to show possession? You can use ‘of’ to clarify the owner – for example, “the friend of mine,” “the taste of winter,” and so on.

5. Accompaniment and Means

When to use ‘in,’ ‘at,’ and ‘on.’

Prepositions can also indicate agents or means. In this case, you can utilize ‘by’ (e.g., cooked by the chef, written by the professor) and ‘with’ to show the tools or accompaniment (e.g., walking with friends, made with hands).

Pinpointing Precision with ‘At’

When to use ‘in,’ ‘at,’ and ‘on.’

As explained earlier, ‘at’ tells where something happened specifically – the locations and moments are exact. Thus, ‘at’ is ideal for denoting precise points and specifying exact moments—some may require exceptions.

  • I learned how to play badminton at the sports center near my school.
  • Diana read the letter at noon.
  • His lungs are at risk due to his smoking habit.

Establishing Context with ‘On’

Correct preposition use

On the other hand, ‘on’ connects your communication to surfaces or specific days – even though some exceptions apply. 

Here’s how to use this word:

  • I saw that black spider on my room’s wall.
  • We always go to church on Sunday afternoons.
  • Your singing progress is on track.

Exploring the Use of ‘In’

English grammar rules

While everything mentioned above indicates something specific, the usage of ‘In’ is versatile. You can express relationships that involve time, enclosed spaces, and even idiomatic nuances.

  • The hose is in the garden.
  • We’ll talk about this in the morning.
  • You’re just in time! We’re going to start the party just now.

More than anything, the correct preposition use makes the communication clearer. Continuous learning and practice are key to mastering these English grammar rules. 

For a fun and engaging way to improve your prepositional skills, consider enrolling in the Fun English Course. With classes available for everyone from toddlers to professionals and test prep, there’s something to suit every learning stage. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to refine your skills and master when to use ‘in,’ ‘at,’ and ‘on’—sign up today and take your English to the next level!

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