The difference between “at afternoon” and “in the afternoon” is more about understanding the prepositions ‘at’ and ‘in.’
The prepositions in, at, on, are used to describe both places and time. In this article, we will focus on the way to use them about time. However, the following sentences show how both preposition forms can be utilized together.
- I will see you AT(place) the cinema later, remember the movie starts AT (time) seven o’clock.
- IN (time) one hour, you will start working IN (place) the Sales Department.
- I will arrive ON (place) American Airlines flight 593, ON (time) Sunday.
To say “at afternoon” is not grammatically correct because we are using the preposition in its place form. However, this is what confuses many English learners because we can say,
- at midday
- at sunrise
- at sunset
- at lunchtime
- at dinner
- at breakfast
The difference is that these nouns refer to a particular point in time, they are therefore prepositions of time and not a place.
- At midday – Around 12:00 pm
- At sunrise – The time at which the sun becomes visible, between early morning and morning.
- At sunset – The time at which the sun disappears, between late afternoon and early evening.
- At lunchtime – Around 12:00 pm
- At dinner/supper – The point in time when we eat the last meal of the day.
- At breakfast – The point in time when we are about to eat our breakfast after waking up in the morning.
Afternoon, however, is not a set point in time.
- Afternoon – Anywhere from 12:00 pm to late afternoon, 5:00 pm or even 6:00 pm.
The same applies to the morning and evening. Since morning, afternoon and evening all have a starting point and end, we say ‘in the,’ to describe that period of time.
- I will leave in the morning after breakfast.
- Do you like to take a nap in the afternoon?
- In the evening I will take you to an excellent restaurant nearby where we can watch the sunset.
To summarise, we use:
- ‘at’ when it is a particular point in time,
- ‘in’ for a length of time that has a start and end,
- ‘on’ for an exact time or date.
To learn more about how to use on, in and at correctly, keep an eye out for an upcoming post about their differences.
Test your knowledge!
I will leave ___ON___ American Airlines flight 593 ___AT___ 8:00 pm __IN____ 3 weeks.
His football game is after lunch sometime _____________________________, before sunset.
I want to arrive early ____________________________ before peak hour traffic begins __AT___ 7:00 am.
Jennifer arrives ___ON____ the 25th of August __AT_____ 11:00 am ___FROM____ Paris.