“In time”, “on time”: difference

On time

We use on time to say that something happened ‘exactly at the planned time’. We use it when speaking about timetables and arrangements. On time suggests that something or someone is neither late nor early.

  • I want to start the meeting on time so please don’t be late.
  • The films at this cinema never start on time – they always start late because of all the advertisements.

In time

If we say we arrived in time, we’re saying that we got there a little early – that there was time to spare.

We often use the structure in time to do something:

  • We arrived in time to get some drinks before the show started.
  • You need to get to the station in time to buy a ticket and find the right platform for your train.

We also say just in time:

  • The man was seriously injured in the crash. I think the ambulance got to him just in time. (= In time to save him.)
  • Come in, Lily! You’re just in time for a cup of tea and some biscuits. (= I’m just preparing tea and biscuits.)

on time in time speakspeak
Think you’ve got it? Great – you’re just in time for a short quiz:

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Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. See all posts by Stuart

8 Comments

  1. JULIAN GALLEGO - October 21, 2014, 8:08 pm Reply

    I liked so much the explanations about On Time and In time. Thank you very much.

    • Tethh Chandara - November 8, 2014, 12:09 pm Reply

      I like your explanation but I still have confused about ” In time”
      I think it should be used for the death line.
      example:
      I have to finish my work in time.
      I need to submit my assignment in time.

  2. robins singh - October 31, 2014, 12:20 pm Reply

    wow …..what a explanation thanks admin

  3. sumantho Karmakar - November 13, 2014, 6:56 am Reply

    very helpful information.

  4. Bashir - November 13, 2014, 10:39 pm Reply

    Thanks mr. Stuart.i find it very helpful.

  5. Angel - November 26, 2014, 5:36 pm Reply

    Some other uses for the “in time” expression (feel free to correct me if i’m wrong):

    My dear son, in time you will become a famous man
    (over the years)

    They clap their hands in time with the music
    (syncronized)

    Anyway, very good explanation

  6. kash - December 17, 2014, 9:00 pm Reply

    Wow, this explanation has been given in simple words but still is meaningful.
    Thank you , BTW

  7. Dwarak AL - July 20, 2015, 7:28 pm Reply

    Thank you for giving such simple examples.

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