Difference Between ON TIME and IN TIME | I REACH ON TIME or I REACH IN TIME?

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Difference Between ON TIME and IN TIME

There's a little difference between these two phrases, ON TIME and IN TIME. Let's learn when and how to use them correctly in English writing and speaking.


We use ON TIME to refer to a specific time when something will happen. For example, I got stuck in a traffic jam, but thankfully I got to the meeting on time

When something happens on time, it happens at the exact or scheduled time, for example, a meeting or a class starts on time, let's say it's 11.30am. The meeting started on time

John is always on time means John does something at a specific time that is fixed for that work. For example, John attends every meeting on time.

ON TIME = There's a specific time when something is supposed/expected to happen and it does happen at the planned time.

Let's Understand This By Taking An Example,

Suppose, your job interview is at 4pm and if you arrive there at 4pm, you're on time for the interview. The flight is scheduled to leave at 10.30pm and if it does leave at that time (10.30pm), it's leaving on time. The class was supposed to start at 11am and if it did start at 11am with no delays, it started on time.

If it was scheduled to start a meeting at 7pm and John and Jane arrived at 7pm and Tom arrived at 7.05pm, John and Jane were on time but Tom was not on time. [Tom is late.] [ON TIME = NOT LATE]

He's always on time. = He is punctual; he arrives at the correct time and he is never late.

He's never on time. = He always arrives late.

Let's Take Another Example [A Short Conversation Between Tom and His Teacher.]

Tom: May I come in, Sir.

Teacher: It's 11.45am and the class started at 11.30am. You're not on time, Tom. You're always late.


On the other hand, we use IN TIME when something happens before it's too late. When something happens in time, it happens before the deadline (We have sufficient time to do something.) For example, I need to buy some eggs before the store closes. So, I got there in time. I got to the office in time to talk to my boss.

IN TIME = BEFORE THE EXACT TIME (Before the deadline/the last moment or Before something bad happens.)

* JUST IN TIME = At the last possible moment. [Just before something happens] For example, They got there just in time for the meeting. | Just in time refers to something happening at the last moment, just before the deadline or just before something was supposed to happen.

* In the nick of time = At the very last moment. For example, We've completed our run in the nick of time, with only a few seconds left on the countdown.

Example Sentences 

1) The man was seriously injured; they got him to the hospital just in time. [they got him to the hospital before he died.]

2) I missed my opportunity to go to that college because I didn't submit my application in time. [I didn't submit the application before the deadline.]

More Example Sentences [On Time vs In Time]

1) He got ready in time. He got there in time. He reached there on time to attend the meeting.

2) Mr George wants to start the meeting on time. And he also wants to finish the meeting in time because he has to attend another meeting at 10.30pm. He wants to attend the next meeting on time. He's always on time.

3) John hardly ever gets to work on time. He's always late.

4) The ambulance arrived just in time at the spot. [The ambulance arrived at the spot before it was too late] 

And if I call for the ambulance and say it has to be there at 10 O'clock. And if the ambulance arrives there at 10 O'clock, it arrives on time.

5) If you don't submit your project in time, you'll be fired. [You've to submit your project before the deadline.]

6) He got up late today but he reached his office on time. The plane took off on time.

7) She arrived at the office in time to finish his pending work. The injured man was admitted to the hospital in time and the doctor saved his life.

8) I arrived on time. [I arrived at the exact time.]

9) I arrived there just in time. [I arrived there just before the exact time.]

10) I want to be at the meeting on time. My friend is always on time. I always reach the railway station on time.

11) I found a man lying on the roadside. He was seriously injured. I took him to the hospital in time.

Important Notes

ON TIME = AT THE EXACT TIME FIXED OR SCHEDULED FOR SOMETHING [Fixed Time] | Something was planned for a particular time and it did happen at that time. For example, my train was on time. [The train was scheduled to leave at five past three (3.05) and it left at five past three (3.05)] | The match/meeting started on time. | I arrived for the interview on time.

IN TIME = BEFORE THE EXACT TIME (Before the deadline/the last moment or Before something bad happens.)

JUST IN TIME = Something happened at the very last moment but it wasn't late. For example, we arrived at the party just in time to get some drinks. | I submitted my project just in time.[I submitted my project just before the deadline.]

When something happens on time, it happens at the planned or exact (correct) time.

* When something happens in time, it happens before the deadline.

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