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Prepositions of Time, Part 3

Announcement! As of August 1, 2019, the TOEFL Reading, Listening and Speaking sections will be shortened. The TOEFL will also make changes to its prep materials and scoring system. Because of this, some of the info in our blog posts may not yet reflect the new exam format. We cover all the changes here.

In my last two blog posts on this subject, I explained the uses of fifteen English prepositions of time, with example phrases and sentences. In this post, we’ll look at the remaining eight prepositions of time you are likely to come across when you use English.

  • INTO
    • Used to describe a time period that overlaps with the beginning of another time period: It will snow at the end of the year and into the beginning of the next year. We will attend class in the morning and into the afternoon.
  • AGO
    • Used to describe how far in the past an event happened (often this word is used with dramatic connotation, so you’ll see it in songs and in movies): It was twenty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play. Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…. Many years ago my father went to Paris.
  • UP TO
    • Can have the same meaning as “to”: Our meeting will go to closing time, because it can only go up to closing time.
    • Can describe the maximum amount of time something might take: Students may take up to 4 hours and 10 minutes to complete the TOEFL exam.
    • Means “this amount of time and possibly more than this amount of time”: Students spend upwards of 3 ½ hours on the TOEFL.
  • OVER
    • Describes a completion or ending of a time period: The day is finally over. The war is over, and now both sides have signed a piece treaty.
    • Means “more than” when describing a quantity of time: When I called the electric company, they put me on hold for over 10 minutes.
    • Describes an event that happens during a specific time period: He completed his research over summer break. They talked over the hour. (Note that “the hour” is a specific hour that must take place at a specific time, because it has “the” as its article. See this blog post.)
    • Means “less than” when describing quantity of time: An hour long TV show can be watched in under an hour on DVD, because the commercials have been removed from the show.
  • PAST
    • Used to describe how much time has passed between one point in time and another later point in time: 11pm is two hours past my son’s normal bedtime.
    • Used to describe clock times when an hour on the clock has recently been reached: It’s 10 past 3pm.
  • THAN
    • Used to compare two different amounts of time: A minute is shorter than an hour. I am older than you.

And that brings us to a total of twenty-three common prepositions of time. This may feel like quite the English workout. But we’re just getting warmed up. In the next post in this series, I’ll give you an activity where you can review all of the prepositions of time covered in this and my two earlier posts.


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