At is used with noon, night, midnight, and with the time of day:
My plane leaves at noon.
The movie starts at 6 p.m.
In is used with other parts of the day, with months, with years, with seasons:
He likes to read in the afternoon.
The days are long in August.
The book was published in 1999.
The flowers will bloom in spring.
To express extended time, English uses the following prepositions: since, for, by, from—to, from-until, during,(with)in
She has been gone since yesterday. (She left yesterday and has not returned.)
I'm going to Paris for two weeks. (I will spend two weeks there.)
The movie showed from August to October. (Beginning in August and ending in October.)
The decorations were up from spring until fall. (Beginning in spring and ending in fall.)
I watch TV during the evening. (For some period of time in the evening.)
We must finish the project within a year. (No longer than a year.)
To express notions of place, English uses the following prepositions: to talk about the point itself: in, to express something contained: inside, to talk about the surface: on, to talk about a general vicinity, at. For more detail, see our handouts on Prepositions of Location and Prepositions of Direction.
There is a wasp in the room.
Put the present inside the box.
I left your keys on the table.
She was waiting at the corner.
Higher than a point
To express notions of an object being higher than a point, English uses the following prepositions: over, above. For more detail, see our handout on Prepositions of Spatial Relationship.
He threw the ball over the roof.
Hang that picture above the couch.
Lower than a point
To express notions of an object being lower than a point, English uses the following prepositions: under, underneath, beneath, below. For more detail, see our handout on Prepositions of Spatial Relationship.
The rabbit burrowed under the ground.
The child hid underneath the blanket.
We relaxed in the shade beneath the branches.
The valley is below sea-level.
Close to a point
To express notions of an object being close to a point, English uses the following prepositions: near, by, next to, between, among, opposite. For more detail, see our handout on Prepositions of Spatial Relationship.
She lives near the school.
There is an ice cream shop by the store.
An oak tree grows next to my house
The house is between Elm Street and Maple Street.
I found my pen lying among the books.
The bathroom is opposite that room.
To introduce objects of verbs
English uses the following prepositions to introduce objects of the following verbs.
At: glance, laugh, look, rejoice, smile, stare
She took a quick glance at her reflection. (exception with mirror: She took a quick glance in the mirror.)
You didn't laugh at his joke.
I'm looking at the computer monitor.
We rejoiced at his safe rescue.
That pretty girl smiled at you.
Stop staring at me.
Of: approve, consist, smell
I don't approve of his speech.
My contribution to the article consists of many pages.
He came home smelling of alcohol.
Of (or about): dream, think
I dream of finishing college in four years.
Can you think of a number between one and ten?
I am thinking about this problem.
For: call, hope, look, wait, watch, wish
Did someone call for a taxi?
He hopes for a raise in salary next year.
I'm looking for my keys.
We'll wait for her here.
You go buy the tickets and I'll watch for the train.
If you wish for an "A" in this class, you must work hard.
English Prepositions List
There are about 150 prepositions in English. Yet this is a very small number when you think of the thousands of other words (nouns, verbs etc). Prepositions are important words. We use individual prepositions more frequently than other individual words. In fact, the prepositions of, to and in are among the ten most frequent words in English. Here is a short list of 70 of the more common one-word prepositions. Many of these prepositions have more than one meaning. Please refer to a dictionary for precise meaning and usage.