AT : A Preposition of Place and Time

Prepositions have always been a headache to all learners of English. I’ve been searching – for a looong time -to find memory tricks to help students remember them. So, I started drawing pictures such as the one below:

Visual preposition AT, by papadeli

In one picture, we can see all uses of the preposition “at”. We can present the picture to the learner either as a story or as a simple flashcard.

The card is divided in two parts:

  • The one on the left, where things are happening during the day.
  • and the one on the right, where things are happening during the night.

In the middle, there is a big clock, the masterpiece of this picture. It looks like Big Ben but the thing is that I wanted to make sure that the preposition “at” is mainly used with time: My train leaves at 10:00 p.m. But I chose the clock to strike 12:00 because I can use it later on to ask:

-What’s the time?  -It’s 12 o’clock, right! Either at midday or at midnight.

It’s up to you how to use the picture. But it would really help to print and hand it out with the following notes.

PLACE

  • at 117 Baker Street
  • at home
  • at work
  • at school, university, college
  • at the bus stop, at the taxi stand
  • at the bookshop, at the cinema, at the restaurant
  • at the door, at the entrance, at the table,at the desk
  • at the front/back of
  • at the beginning/end of (the street)

TIME

  • at 12 o’ clock, at 3 o’ clock…
  • at the moment
  • at present
  • at bedtime
  • at lunchtime
  • at the same time
  • at a young age
  • at noon
  • at midday
  • at midnight
  • at night
  • at the beginning/end of the day, at the end of January

Did you notice the little girl entering the school? PAPADELI Language School? Did you see the red hat she is wearing? When do we wear hats like that?

  • at Christmas

The little girl is at school. What is she thinking about? Maybe she needs to relax. But when can she do that?

  • at the weekend (BrE) – *Note that in American English, on the weekend is the correct form.

What about the lady at the end of the street? At her age, she shouldn’t be out at midnight. But what is she trying to do? What is this little thing with the long ears next to the egg? Oh, a rabbit. Rabbit? Eggs? What time of the year could that be? When do we decorate our home with rabbits and eggs?

  • at Easter

I”ve also used as a background at the back,  the silhouettes of the buildings of a city, whereas at the front, the big clock.

You can also present “at” in 2 sections:

1. At as a preposition of time:

at time2. At as a preposition of place:

AT as a preposition of place, by papadeli

There is always the simple way to present each use on its own:

at nightIn case you present the card above, don’t forget to mention that there are 2 words, so we have 2 mountains. In this way, we prevent learners from adding a 3rd word in between.

How to make Ss reproduce the AT phrases

You can print the following pages and cut out the shapes.

at1 at2 at3

  • S1 gives instructions to S2: There are many buildings at the back. There is also a big clock at the front…
  • S2 follows the instructions and builds up the whole picture.
  • You could also create a 3D CARD, which is much more impressive! You can find a tutorial here.

And here’s a 3D card:

AT as a 3D card - by papadeli

To practise writing, you can ask students to write down either the “at phrases” or the whole description of the picture. In case you choose the first option, use a stopwatch to make the activity more challenging! The winner is the one who writes the most phrases!

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