1

"We use in with morning, afternoon, evening and night, but we use on when we talk about a specific morning, afternoon, etc., or when we describe the part of the day."(Cambridge Dictionary)

As Cambridge says we use "on+morning+when" with specific mornings and nights. But after searching a little bit, I found that "in+morning+when" is much more common. Source

For example : Which of the following example is true?

1- I had panic attacks in the night when I heard him coming.

2- I had panic attacks on the night when I heard him coming.

But on the other hand we use a bit more "on+night+when" than "in+night+when". Source

For example : Which of the following example is true?

3- We saw him in the night when he left.

4- We saw him on the night when he left.

  • I think the correct one would be We saw him on the morning he took the exam. (without the when) – Bella Swan Apr 3 '19 at 12:09
  • I have changed my example. – Talha Özden Apr 3 '19 at 13:59
  • "We saw him the night he left". No on, no in. – Lambie Apr 3 '19 at 15:36
  • yes, @Lambie, but that isn't his question. – Lorel C. Apr 3 '19 at 15:37
  • So are you telling Talha Özden to forget about "in" altogether, and just to use "on" or nothing? – Lorel C. Apr 3 '19 at 15:46
4

Not all cases of in the morning when are specific mornings.

I have trouble getting up in the morning when I've had a late night.

That's not a specific morning; the when is specifying a class of mornings. Your first to examples about the night are both correct, but different things.

I had panic attacks in the night when I heard him coming.

Over some period of time, if she heard him coming she would have panic attacks in the night (i.e. at night).

I had panic attacks on the night when I heard him coming.

The one night she heard him coming, she had (several) panic attacks.

Likewise, the other two examples are both correct, and a different meaning - but one seems far more likely to be wanted than the other.

We saw him on the night when he left.

The night that he left, you saw him.

We saw him in the night when he left.

When he left, you saw him, and this was at night. This might be used to contradict an assertion that you never saw him at night.

Also, it's worth noting that your on the night examples could replace when with that. In many cases, that would be more natural.

  • An alternative interpretation of sentence #2: Whenever in the night you heard him coming, that's when you had the panic. – Wilson Apr 3 '19 at 15:56
  • @Wilson not really, because "on the night" doesn't make sense without a specification, so the when must be the specification. "In the night" doesn't have that limitation. – SamBC Apr 3 '19 at 16:15
  • So what about this sentence "The band liked crashing at our place on nights we played at Live Bay." ? Is "on nights" regarded as specific nights ? + As far as I understand, both "in the night when" and "on the night when" could be regarded as a specific night? Then, how can I know which preposition to use? – Talha Özden Apr 3 '19 at 16:27
  • "in the night when" specifies certain points at night, rather than specific nights. "On the nights when" refers to several specific nights, and refers to the whole night. – SamBC Apr 3 '19 at 16:40
  • @TalhaÖzden: Sorry I didn't get around to replying to that before. The first statement is a general one that applies to past and future. The second statement is referring to specific nights in the past - "nights we played at Live Bay". However, the in and on difference there isn't just about specific/general. It's more complex than that. – SamBC Apr 4 '19 at 19:25
-3

"We use in with morning, afternoon, evening and night, but we use on when we talk about a specific morning, afternoon, etc., or when we describe the part of the day."(Cambridge Dictionary). My analysis is based on the preceding definition.

Examples from the OP:

1- I had panic attacks in the night when I heard him coming.

Remark: No, because: to "heard him coming" is specific, as per the definition.

If you heard him coming, you would have to say: I had a panic attack the night I heard him coming. [singular panic attack] OR I had panic attacks on night I heard him coming. [plural panic attacks]

The Cambridge Dictionary would accept:

I have panic attacks in the morning. [a general statement]
I have panic attacks in the night. [a general statement]
in the night can mean: at night or during the night.

2- I had panic attacks on the night when I heard him coming.

Remark: No, because "on the night" is used with a specific night and plural is wrong here.

On the night of October 15th, I had a panic attack.

Please note: "in the night" can be formal or literary:

The intruders came in the night, stole all the jewels and no one awoke during the robbery. [in the night=at night]

I hope I have interpreted the Cambridge Dictionary definitions clearly.

Please note: You can also say:

  • I saw him the night he left. With no on or in.
  • The dv's are simply outrageous. I really wonder if native speakers are voting here. – Lambie Apr 4 '19 at 15:56

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