ESL Prepositions of Time: Exercises & Activities

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Prepositions of time may seem inconsequential. However, it's vital that ESL (English as a Second Language) learners use them correctly. This lesson provides ESL teachers with classroom exercises related to prepositions of time.

Prepositions of Time

A proper understanding of prepositions of time is an essential part of any ESL (English as a Second Language) curriculum. Using the wrong preposition can sound awkward or even change the meaning of a sentence. The exercises in this lesson will focus on the proper use of the following prepositions of time:

  • At - Denotes a specific time. (I wake up at 7:00 am.)
  • In - Months, seasons, year, morning, evening, afternoon, and period of time. (Christmas is in December. I do my homework in the evening. My sister always skis in winter. My father graduated from college in 1980.)
  • On - Used for days of the week and weekends. (Many banks are closed on Sunday.)
  • Since - From a time in the past until now. (I have been learning to play guitar since last summer.)
  • For - To show how long something has been happening. (I have been studying for two hours.)
  • Until - Can indicate how long a situation has been occurring or will occur. (Jane will keep practicing until her tennis game improves.)
  • During - Used to a show a point in time when something is happening. (My father always watches the news during election season.)

Be sure to discuss each of the above prepositions and examples with your students before using these exercises.

Prepositional Choice

This first exercise is great for younger and lower-level students. In this activity, students will insert an appropriate preposition into a sentence. To begin, write the following sentences on the board and leave out the preposition. Feel free to add more that may incorporate other vocabulary words your students are learning.

  1. Students usually have time off _____ the weekend. (on)
  2. The weather has been colder _____ winter began. (since)
  3. My cat always gets her dinner _____ 4:30. (at)
  4. _____ summer vacation, my family goes to the beach. (during)
  5. The traffic is usually heavy _____ the early evening. (in)
  6. An athlete must keep practicing _____ they can be the best. (until)
  7. I have been learning English _____ two years. (for)
  8. Students should study _____ the daytime. (in/during)
  9. The students have free time _____ lunch. (at/during)
  10. I will study _____ my English improves. (until)

Flash Prepositions - At, In, On

Prepare a series of index cards with the following words and times. Only write one word on each card.

  • Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
  • January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
  • 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, 6:00, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00

Make sure you shuffle the flashcards before you play the game. Put the students into small teams and ask one student from each team to join you at the front of the class. Show them the first flash card.

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