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I'm unsure about the correct preposition of time regarding two sentences.

This is the first sentence in question:

I'll call her ... the holidays.

Possible solutions are at/in/on.

I already ruled out at because that simply doesn't make any sense. I'm torn between on and in.

The same issue:

Did you have a good time ... Easter?

I'm leaning towards on here.

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At (among other uses) is used for weekends, public and religious holidays, meal times, and times of day. For example: at the weekend (BrEng usage); at Christmas and at Easter; at lunch; and at 12 o'clock.

Holiday breaks usually consist of more than one day, so when you refer to Christmas you are thinking about Christmas eve, Christmas day and Boxing day (also called ‘St.Stephen's Day’). The Easter holiday is usually made up of two days; Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. N.B. Good Friday is not a public holiday in Italy but it is in the UK.

Thus the question should read:

Did you have a good time at Easter?

On is used in the following: on the weekend (AmEng), on Christmas day and on Easter Sunday. The preposition on is normally used for dates (i.e. on 25th December) and days of the week. In British English, people ‘go on holiday’ but in American English they ‘go on vacation’.

In is normally used with ‘weeks’, ‘months’ and ‘years’, for example: in two two weeks' time; in July; and in 2016.

Because the OP's sentence uses the plural noun form, holidays, and the choice is limited to at/in/on, I suggest that in is the most appropriate preposition.

I'll call her in the holidays.

In a multiple-choice test paper, a student's answer which completely ignores the options, will always be marked incorrect. Regardless if the given answer is an improvement, e.g. "during" and "over" as suggested by @AleksandrH

Comparing on the summer holidays and in the summer holidays the British English corpus seems to agree that in is idiomatic and grammatical, and doesn't find any instance of the former. Ngram link

enter image description here

Meanwhile the American English corpus shows the occurrences of on the summer vacation (red line) as being exceptionally rare, compared with in the summer vacation (blue line) and in the summer holidays (green line).

enter image description here

For more detail see
"On/at/for/over the weekend" in American English
"On the weekend" or "during the weekend"
Is there a difference between "holiday" and "vacation"?
Holidays or holiday?
"next two weeks" vs. "in 14 days from now"

  • Insightful information! But I have to disagree in the context of this particular question. Since the phrase is "I'll call her ___ Easter", "in" wouldn't be a proper fit at all. If anything, "on" is probably the best choice. Also, just as a general side note to your statement regarding multiple choice tests, it is the teacher's responsibility to design reasonable questions. So while in this case it's not exactly clear, in other cases where all answer choices for a question are wrong one cannot punish a student for picking a wrong answer – AleksandrH Apr 6 '16 at 19:02
  • @AleksandrH the answer is ...at Easter it's in bold. It is rarely on Easter unless you wanted to say ....*on Easter Sunday/Monday* – Mari-Lou A Apr 6 '16 at 19:03
  • But you said "I suggest that in is the most appropriate preposition." – AleksandrH Apr 6 '16 at 19:08
  • @AleksandrH In is correct for "____ the holidays" and I also supported my answer with two Ngrams. I appreciate that "during" and "over" are excellent choices, but "at Easter" is perfectly grammatical and so is "in the holidays". – Mari-Lou A Apr 6 '16 at 19:15
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    @Fang oh, well done, that's a super score! So, it was a class test, not an exam paper, but did the questions come from a test book? By the way, in BrEng the correct or, if you prefer, the most common preposition for "holidays" is definitely "in", I triple-checked! – Mari-Lou A Apr 7 '16 at 22:31
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I think "during" and "over" are better alternatives to any of those. So you could say something like "I'll call her over the holidays" and "Did you have a good time during/over Easter?"

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    Fully agreed. However, during and over are not options in this particular exercise. I'm aware that ELU isn't made for answering homework, but in my humble opinion the question is complex enough to warrant being discussed here. – Fang Feb 14 '16 at 18:08
  • I'm pretty sure that homework questions are acceptable on stack exchange in general so long as you've shown an attempt at solving it yourself, which you have. Given that those are your only options, I'm leaning towards the following: "I'll call her on the holidays" and "Did you have a good time on Easter". Still, I think the exercise is poor to begin with, since none of those options seems to be a good fit. "Over" the holidays is definitely the best way to go for question #1. Probably for question #2 as well. Good luck, hope this helps. – AleksandrH Feb 14 '16 at 18:36
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"Did you have a good time at Easter?" would be a natural British English expression

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