Difference between ‘in time & on time’

(How to differentiate ‘in time’ and ‘on time’)

Table of contents – difference of ‘in time & on time’

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of ‘in time’ and ‘on time’
  2. Further explanations and exercises

When and how are ‘in time’ and ‘on time’ used?

The English time adverbials in time and on time are often confused when used. Both expressions sound similar; however, they have a slight difference in meaning. For details on where they can appear in a sentence, see adverbials of indefinite time and the grammatical modifier. Compare their usage and sense they express in the following examples:

  • The expression ‘in time’ is used in the sense of ‘early enough’, which means that some time remains:
    • “Will you be ready in time for the meeting?”
    • “I’m awaiting a letter. I hope it will get here in time before the holidays.”
    • “I’m playing tennis this afternoon. I want to be there in time to change.”
    • Information:just in time’ is also often utilised, which means ‘nearly too late’:
      • “I got to the airport just in time to catch my flight.”
  • The phrase ‘on time’, on the other hand, is employed in the sense of ‘punctual’ and refers to a specific point in time, e.g., a time of day:
    • “The next train leaves on time at one o’clock.”
    • “Peter is very reliable. He’s always on time.”
    • “Let’s meet at 11.30 and be there on time, please. This time I won’t wait.”

Further explanations related to the usage of ‘in/on time’

The following explanations are relating to the English grammar topic ‘Differentiation of ‘in time’ and ‘on time’’ and could be helpful for you too: