Time prepositions: i, på and om

Are you unsure of when to use the time prepositions i, , and om when describing when, for how long or how often something happens? You are not alone. In this week’s blog post, we’ll dive into the murky waters of time prepositions, and look at the categories of Point in Time, Time Duration and Frequency, as they will dictate when you use i, på and om.

När? When? (point in time)

When you want to say something about when something will happen or happened, you want to refer to a Point in Time. And you have two options. Either you want to talk about something will happen in the future, or you want to talk about something that happened in the past.

FUTURE – om

Unless you want to give the exact date or time (which is of course fine too!), you can use the preposition om, and then add the time between now and the event that you are talking about. For example:

om ett årin a year’s time

om en veckain a week’s time

om 5 minuterin 5 minutes’ time

PAST – för … sedan

If the event happened in the past, you can use för + time + sedan. This basically means ago. Notice that we do not have one word for ago, we have two! One that comes before the time and one that comes after. For example:

för ett år sedana year ago

för en vecka sedana week ago

för 5 minuter sedan5 minutes ago

 

Hur länge? (For) how long? (duration of time)

If you want to talk about how long something has been happening, you will be referring to Duration of Time. Here you also have two options, but they are more to do with positive and negative. If something has been going on, or will be going on (in this sense, positive) for a duration of time, use i. For example:

Jag har studerat svenska i 2 årI have studied Swedish for 2 years

Jag ska vara i Grekland i 2 veckorI will be in Greece for 2 weeks

If something has NOT been happening for a period of time, or will NOT happen for a period of time, use . For example:

Jag har inte gått på gymmet på 2 veckorI have not been to the gym for 2 weeks

Jag ska inte ha semester på 2 månaderI won’t have a holiday for 2 months

 

Hur ofta? How often? (frequency)

If you want to express how often something happens, or has happened, you are in the area of Frequency. Here, you need to use either i or om. This will be determined by the word that you use. Here are the rules:

If it is dagen, dygnet, or året, use om: 

en gång om dagenonce a day

en gång om dygnetonce every 24 hours

en gång om åretonce every year

If you want to up the frequency, just change en gång to två gånger (twice), tre gånger (three times), fyra gånger (four times), and so on.

If it is sekunden, minuten, timmen, veckan, månaden or kvartalet, use i:

en gång i sekundenonce every second

en gång i minutenonce every minute

en gång i timmenonce an hour

en gång i månadenonce a month

en gång i kvartaletonce every 3 months

Same thing here, if you want to up the frequency, just change en gång to två gånger (twice), tre gånger (three times), fyra gånger (four times), and so on.

Also notice that the time unit takes definite form: dagen, månaden, året, and so on.

 

Practice

Now that you know the difference between Point in Time, Duration and Frequency, could you fill in the right preposition into these six sentences? (the question is given in brackets before the sentence)

1 (När?) Johan ska åka till Grekland _______ två veckor.

2 (När?) Lisa var i New York _______ tre månader ________.

3 (Hur länge?) Sarah har studerat svenska _______ 3 år.

4 (Hur länge?) Jag har inte träffat min kusin ______ 5 år.

5 (Hur ofta?) Scott brukar åka på semester två gånger ______ året.

6 (Hur ofta?) Paul tränar på gymmet fyra gånger ______ veckan.

 

Lycka till!

Anneli

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