In time or on time?

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Sometimes two prepositions can be used with the same noun, but the meaning is different.

  • Lessons begin at 8.30 and I always arrive on time. (= at 8.30)
  • Lessons begin at 8.30 and I always get there in time. (= before 8.30; I’m not late)
  • In the end we went home. (= finally, after a long period)
  • At the end of the book they get married.
  • The two men are in business. (= they are businessmen)
  • The two men are in Germany on business. (= they are there for work and not for a holiday)
  • I’ll see you in a moment. (= very soon)
  • I can’t speak to you at the moment. (= right now)

On time and in time

On time = punctual, not late.
If something happens on time, it happens at the time which was planned:

  • The 11.45 train left on time. (= it left at 11.45)
  • Til meet you at 7.30.’   ‘OK, but please be on time.’ (= don’t be late, be there at 7.30
  • The conference was well-organised. Everything began and finished on time.

The opposite of on time is late:

  • Be on time. Don’t be late.

In time (for something / to do something) = soon enough:

  • Will you be home in time for dinner?
    (= soon enough for dinner)
  • I’ve sent Emma a birthday present. 1 hope it arrives in time (for her birthday).
    (= on or before her birthday)
  • I’m in a hurry. I want to be home in time to see the game on television.
    (= soon enough to see the game)

The opposite of in time is too late:

  • I got home too late to see the game on television.

You can say just in time (= almost too late):

  • We got to the station just in time for our train.
  • A child ran into the road in front of the car – I managed to stop just in time.

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