What is the first thing you do every morning?
You probably open your eyes and then immediately start studying your English book, right?
I’m sure you do, because you’re such a great student!
Seriously though, grammar is very important for learning English—but vocabulary for describing your daily routine is even more important.
Here we’ll review lots of basic, essential vocabulary that you can use to talk about your daily routine.
You may have learned some of these words before, and most of them are very common words. But you need to know how to talk about your daily routine because it’s routine and common. Since these are the things that you do every day, they’re also things that you probably talk about and think about very frequently.
This article is divided into five parts: Morning, Noon, Afternoon, Evening and Night. Each section includes words and phrases to talk about places, times, and actions.
Before we start with the routine, I want to quickly talk about something that confuses many of my students. This is when should we say in, on, at, and other words like them.
You’ll notice that these words are in many of the sections below, so we should understand how and when to use them first.
Where and When Does Your Daily Routine Happen?
Before we go into the main list of phrases, we’re going to talk about how to use in, on, at and other similar words.
This is a complicated topic, but there are a few things you should remember.
First of all, this video has a great general explanation about when to use these words, which are called prepositions:
The video talks about using these words with transportation, location and time, but in this article we’ll focus mostly on location and time.
There are some exceptions, but here’s how to generally use them.
Talking About Location
Use at with a general location or an idea
The most common uses of this are:
- at work
- at the office
- at home
- at school
- at the beach
When I say “work,” for example, I’m using “work” as an idea. I can also say “at the office,” but then I’m talking about the general area of the office. In other words, I might be in the break room, in the bathroom or even outside of the building, but I’m probably not inside my private office. If I’m standing inside my office, I’ll probably say in instead of at.
The same is true for home, which is an idea, so you say “I am at home.” Meanwhile, house is the physical building that you walk in and out of, so you would say “I am in my house.”
Use in if you’re inside or contained within something bigger
The most common phrases with in when talking about daily routines are:
- in my house
- in the office
- in a restaurant
For most of these, the person talking is inside a building.
For example, I can say “right now I’m in my house,” because my house is a building and I’m inside of it.
But don’t forget that if I’m just in the general area, I may say at. For example, if I’m standing outside in my garden and talking on my phone with a friend, I may tell my friend that I’m “at” my house, but not “in” my house, since I’m not actually inside of it.
In can also be used with cities, countries, states and other larger geographic areas. For example, you could say “I work in Los Angeles, in California.”
Use on if you’re touching something or on the surface
This one is a bit more difficult to explain. Some examples of phrases with on are:
- on the second floor
- on the beach (walking on the sand, but not in the water)
- on the floor
- on the roof
- on the moon
- on an island (for example, “I’m on Long Island,” or “I’m on Hokkaido.”)
You can use on anytime a person or object is touching the top or surface of something.
For example, I could say “My computer is on my desk, and there’s a picture of my family hanging on the wall.”
In both cases, the object is touching another one, but not inside it.
Talking About Time
Use on with specific days
If you’re giving an exact day, use on. For example:
“We’ll meet on Monday, or maybe on July 15th.”
Use in with longer periods of time like months, years, and parts of the day
For example, you can meet in July, in 2017 or in the 21st century.
For parts of the day, the main phrases you’ll hear are in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. Note that the word at is usually used with night.
Use at for exact times and with night
If you’re talking about an exact time, use at. For example:
“We’ll meet at 7:30 p.m.”
“Let’s meet at noon” (remember that noon is 12 p.m.).
Use at with night in most cases:
“I always work better at night than I do in the morning.”
Okay, so now that we understand that, let’s start talking about the different parts of the day!
How to Talk About Your Daily Routine with 65+ English Vocabulary Words
There are several helpful videos on FluentU with daily routine songs and phrases, like this one. It might be a good idea to watch them when you’re done reading this article to review the vocabulary.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
In the Morning
Most people start their days in the morning (unless they work at night or have trouble sleeping), so the morning is often the busiest time of day. That also means that there’s a lot of vocabulary you should know to talk about the things you do in the morning.
Morning Time Vocabulary
Early Morning. Some languages have a special name for the period of time between approximately 12 midnight and 6:00 a.m., but English doesn’t. Instead, just say “early morning” or “really early morning.”
Sunrise. This is when the sun appears in the morning, usually between 5 and 7 a.m. in most places. This is when the day starts. The word rise means “go up,” and we can also use it as a verb and say “the sun rises.”
Dawn. Dawn is another name for the period of time when the sun rises.
Mid-morning. Mid-morning isn’t an official time, but it’s about halfway between when you wake up and when you eat lunch.
Late morning. This refers to any time close to 12:00 (noon) but still before then.
From ___ to ___. You’ll probably use this phrase to talk about many of your daily activities. If you do something for a period of time, you can use this phrase and mention the start and end time of that activity.
Jennifer works from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
At + (specific time). Like we saw in the explanation above, use at if you’re talking about a specific time (but not a period of time).
Jennifer usually gets to work at 8 a.m.
On + (date or day of the week). Use on for specific days or dates.
I normally work on Tuesdays, but on January 1st I won’t have to work.
Our boss said no one had to work on New Year’s Day because it’s a holiday.
In + (month or year). Use in for longer periods of time like months, years, and seasons.
We often start work at 8 a.m, but in winter the office opens at 9.
That “winter time” schedule starts in November this year, but we won’t do that in 2017.
Morning Place Vocabulary
In bed. This is the place where most of us start our day. You can also say “on the bed” if you’re sitting, but usually not if you’re laying down.
In the bedroom. This one is more logical. If you’re talking about a specific room in your house, office or any other building, you can say in, since you’re usually inside those rooms.
In the bathroom. Most people spend time in the bathroom as part of their morning routine. In the next section we’ll look at some of the most common actions people do there.
In the kitchen. This is another example of using in with rooms.
At work. Many people start working in the morning. When they’re working, you can say they’re at work.
At school. If you take any kind of class, you will probably spend some of your morning time at school. In English, you can use the word school for most educational institutions, including universities. But remember if you say “at school,” you’re probably talking about the general area. You can also mention a specific area in the building, like in the lunchroom, in the gymnasium or in the principal’s office.
The best way to learn school vocabulary is to see it in context, as shown in the following video from FluentU English’s YouTube Channel.
In this video, the host explores the trailer for a movie called “Gifted” starring Chris Evans. The movie revolves around a man (Evans) who cares for his niece (actress Mckenna Grace) after the death of her mother. Evans’ character discovers that his niece is gifted (or “very smart”), and a battle takes place between Evans—who wants to give the girl a normal life—and her grandmother, who wants her to become a successful mathematician.
As you can imagine, there are loads of school-related words and phrases to learn in this video. Seeing all this school vocabulary in real situations and in native English is a great way to learn it. Add in FluentU’s interactive subtitles and Spaced Repetition System flashcards, and you’ll master school vocabulary in no time!
Check out this video and many others like it on FluentU English’s YouTube Channel.
Using transportation. Generally, you’ll use the word in or on with most vehicles, and by with the type of transportation.
- On + larger vehicles or one-person transportation. You can say:
- on the bus
- on the train
- on the airplane
- on the tram/streetcar
- on the ferry/boat
You should also say on a bike, on a motorcycle or on a horse because you’re on top of those things—and if you ride a horse to work, you probably have a more exciting job than I do!
- In + smaller vehicles (or large ones). I’ll admit this is confusing. For all of the large vehicles in the last point, you can also say in if you want, but it’s less common. So you can say “in the bus” or “on the bus,” but on is more common. In is more common with smaller vehicles for only a few people. You can say “in a car,” “in a taxi” or even something more modern like “in an Uber.”
- By + type of transportation. If someone asks you “How do you get to work?” you can respond with by and then the type of transportation. If you walk, you can say “by foot,” but there are many other options:
- by public transportation
- by bike
- by car
- by bus
Mornings are usually a busy time, so there are a lot of common actions you’ll want to talk about then. You can also do most of these actions later in the day, so remember them when we’re talking about other parts of the day.
Wake up. This means to stop sleeping. When you’re sleeping, you’re asleep, and after you wake up, you’re awake.
Get up. This can be similar to wake up, but get up means that you start to physically move your body. Most people get up when they leave their beds and start their daily routines.
Get ready. When you get ready, you do all of the things that you need to do to start your day. This can include different actions for different people, but now we’ll show you some common morning actions.
Take a shower/bath. This means to clean your body. If you take a bath, it’s in a bathtub. Most people these days don’t take baths, but instead take showers. It’s also common to say “have a shower/bath,” especially in British English. The verb for all these actions is to bathe.
Brush your teeth. This is when you clean your teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Dentists also recommend that you floss your teeth with dental floss.
Comb/brush your hair. This is what you do with your hair (if you have hair). These words can be verbs or nouns. A comb is usually made of plastic and flat, and a brush is larger and usually circular.
Put on makeup. Some people put on makeup in the morning. Makeup is different colored substances that people put on their faces to enhance or cover different parts of the face.
Get dressed. After finishing your morning routine, you probably put on clothes. That action is also called getting dressed.
Make and eat breakfast. Some people are rushed (they don’t have time) in the morning, but you should try to eat a healthy breakfast. It’s the best way to start your day! Some people also take breakfast with them or stop by a fast food restaurant or cafe to buy breakfast, and then they eat it on the way to work.
Go to work/school. If you live far away, or have to drive or take public transportation, the process of going is also called commuting, and you can say “I have to commute to work.” Some people work from home, and they’re often called telecommuters.
Those are the most common English words and phrases you’ll need to talk about your morning routine. Remember that you can use a lot of the vocabulary from this section at other times of day.
Noon is the most common word for 12:00 p.m. You might hear people say midday, but that’s usually a more general time. Noon is more exact and much more common.
Because noon is in the middle of work or school days, most people eat lunch around this time.
Noon Time Vocabulary
At noon. Because noon is an exact time (12 p.m.), we say at noon.
Lunch break / Lunch hour. This is a period when people stop working or studying so that they can eat lunch. It’s usually around noon and about an hour long.
Noon Place Vocabulary
In the lunchroom/cafeteria/restaurant. These are different places where people often eat lunch. A lunchroom is usually connected to a school or a company’s office, and it’s generally just for people who work or study there.
Another word for a lunchroom is a cafeteria. Note that a cafeteria isn’t a place that serves mainly coffee (that’s a coffee shop) or a small, informal restaurant (that’s a cafe).
Eat lunch / Go out to eat. If you go out or go out to eat, then you leave your office or school to eat somewhere else, usually a restaurant. You can also use the phrase eat out.
In the Afternoon
The afternoon starts at 12 p.m. (because it’s after noon, 12 p.m.), and it ends around the time it gets dark outside.
I don’t have any additional time vocabulary for the afternoon, so let’s look at place vocabulary.
Afternoon Place Vocabulary
Happy hour. This is a period of time when some bars or restaurants offer special prices on drinks or food, but it isn’t necessarily one hour. Bars and restaurants have happy hours to attract customers, so happy hours are usually after most people stop working, but before they eat dinner.
Get off work. This is a phrase that means to stop working. You can also say stop working, but it’s more common to hear something like:
I get off work at 5, so would you like to meet me at 5:20 at the bar for happy hour?
Leave school. This is when you finish your classes and leave the school or campus.
Go out for dinner / drinks. This is like eating out for lunch, but usually after people finish working. If you go out for drinks or cocktails, you probably go to a bar or restaurant.
Buy a round of drinks. If you go to a bar for happy hour, you may want to be generous and buy a drink for all of your friends. If so, then you’re going to buy them a round of drinks. You can say something like “I’ll get this round” or “This round is on me” if you’re offering to pay.
Go home, Get home. Going home (or commuting home) is what most people do after work. When you arrive at your house, you can also say get home. For ways to talk about the types of transportation, check the Morning section.
Study. If you’re doing any kind of work for your education, you can say that you’re studying. You may be writing an essay (a type of formal report or paper), practicing material you have learned or preparing for an exam. You can say I’m studying for all of those things.
Hang out, Relax. This is when you spend your free time doing things that interest you or spending time with your friends. It’s usually an informal time and an informal phrase.
Do homework. If you do homework, then you work on assignments that you have from a previous class. Note that homework isn’t countable, so if you have a large amount, you can say “I have a lot of homework.”
Work out / Exercise. These are two phrases that mean the same thing. They both mean doing physical activity to stay fit. You can work out at a gym, in your house or outside. You can also do exercise or just use exercise as a verb, like:
I try to exercise every afternoon before dinner.
Make dinner. If you like to cook (and have the time), you might make dinner. That means to prepare the food for dinner. Some people aren’t interested in cooking (or they may not have time), so they can also eat out for dinner, or even order food for delivery, which means that a restaurant brings the food right to their house.
In the Evening
I’ve noticed that not every language has a word like evening. In English, evening is generally the period of time after the sun goes down (when it becomes dark), but before you go to bed. The pronunciation is sometimes a bit difficult, also. Click here to hear it, and note that it has two syllables, not three.
Evening Time Vocabulary
Sunset. Sunset is the time of day when the sun sets (goes down or disappears). In most places, the sunset is between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., but it can change a lot depending on the location and the season.
Twilight, Dusk. These are two more names for the period of time when the day becomes dark. If you hear someone say the phrase “from dusk till dawn,” they mean during the night, and “from dawn till dusk” means during the day.
I don’t have any additional evening place vocabulary for you, so let’s look at some common evening actions.
There’s not always a clear division between afternoon, evening and night, so many people do these actions at different times.
Eat dinner. Dinner is the last meal (serving of food) of the day. It’s also called supper in some places, and dinner can sometimes refer to a formal meal at different times of the day.
Watch TV or a movie. You probably know what this means, but just note that if you go out to watch a movie, you can say “I’m going to the movies” or “I’m going to the movie theater.” In British English, a movie theater is often called a cinema, and a movie is often called a film.
Go out. This is a general term, but it means to leave your house to do something. You can use it if you’re going out for dinner or for drinks at a bar, or you may use it if you’re going out on a date, which is when you meet with someone who you’re interested in romantically.
Remember that this is the exception, so you normally say at night. You may hear some phrases that use in the night, but at is still more common.
Also, note that good night isn’t a greeting (a way to say “hello”). If you say “good night” to someone, it’s like saying “goodbye.“ You can also say it right before you go to sleep.
Night Time Vocabulary
Midnight. This is at 12 a.m., in the middle of the night. It’s the opposite of noon.
Get ready for bed. This is the reverse of what you do when you get ready in the morning. You may take off or change your clothes and maybe put on pajamas (or whatever you wear when you sleep). It’s also common to wash your face, brush your teeth and maybe take a shower. Some people like to read or do other relaxing activities before bed.
Get things ready for the next day. If you’re a night owl (a person who’s more active at night) like I am and not an early bird (someone who prefers mornings), you may want to do a few things at night to prepare for the next day.
You can set your alarm to wake you up in the morning, set out things for breakfast the next morning or maybe lay out the clothes that you’ll wear the next day. That way, you won’t have to make decisions when you’re tired in the morning!
Go to bed / Get in bed. This is when you physically move to your bed. It’s the opposite of get up in the morning.
Go to sleep. This is when you stop being awake and start sleeping.
Sleep tight! This is a common phrase that people say, but it doesn’t actually make much sense. It rhymes with “good night,” so you may hear someone say “good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite!” (Bedbugs are small insects that live in beds and bite people when they sleep.)
If you remember and use these phrases, you should have no trouble talking about what you do during your daily routine.
Day or night, you can now talk about it.
Ryan Sitzman teaches English and sometimes German in Costa Rica. He is passionate about learning, coffee, traveling, languages, writing, photography, books, and movies, but not necessarily in that order. You can learn more or connect with him through his website Sitzman ABC.
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