In time and On time – What’s the difference?

What’s the difference between being on time and being in time?  On time means punctually or  promptly –  at the time that was scheduled. In time means not late.

Watch our two videos for a full explanation and see the phrases in action. The first video has lots of examples and covers the basics and the second one goes into more detail and answers a viewer’s question.

In time On Time Video 1

Transcript

Oooh. It’s Zeynep. Hi Zeynep.
Hi Vicki and Jay. How are you getting on with the video?
Oh, the video. We’re a little behind schedule.
Will it be ready in time for the show?
Can we have a few more days?
I don’t know if that’s possible. I’ll have to ask Zehra.
Zehra. Oh no, not Zehra.
The deadline is Friday! You must finish on time!
We – we will, Zehra. We will.
Good.
That kid is scary.
Yeah, let’s hurry up and get to work.

It’s two o’clock.
Yes. Jay, come and sit down. I want to start this meeting on time.

If something happens on time, it happens at the correct time; the time that was scheduled.

Oh, the train’s coming. It’s right on time.

The time that was scheduled – it’s not late and it’s not early.

Have Pattersons paid us?
No, they haven’t.
The invoice is due at the end of the month. Don’t worry. They always pay on time.

Were you going to bed already? It’s only eight o’clock.
Yeah, I’ve got a conference call early tomorrow morning.
Oh, that’s right – with Europe.
If I don’t go to bed now, I’ll never wake up in time.
Sleep well.
If I don’t go to bed now, I’ll never wake up in time.

Am I in time for the meeting?
Yeah. Don’t worry, we’ve got ten minutes.
I couldn’t find a parking space.
C’mon, let’s go in.

If we’re in time for something we’re not late. In time means with enough time to spare, before the last moment.

Hi, I’m home.
Oh, you’re just in time.
Just in time for what?
Dancing with the Stars is going to start in three minutes.

On time – the correct time. In time- not late.

Hi Vicki and Jay.
Hey Zeynep. We’re ready to send the video.
Oh, well done.
Yeah, we worked all night to get it finished.
Oh, you poor things.
The show is tomorrow, right?
Yes.
Good, you’ll get it in time.
That’s great! Oh , Zehra wants to speak to you.
Did you finish on time?
Yes, yes we did, Zehra.
We’re going to send it now.
Good. I’ll speak to you later then.
Whew, thank goodness we finished on time.

Click here to see this video with a clickable transcript.
To see Zehra and Zeynep in another video about the prepositions by and until, click here.

In time On Time Video 2


Transcript

Is there a problem, officer?
Is this your car?
Yes.
The meter runs out in one minute.
I’m leaving right now.
Just in time.

Hi and welcome back to another lesson on ‘on time’ and ‘in time’. In the last video we looked at when we use these phrases and now we’re going to look at some situations where both phrases are possible. In the last video Jay and I had a job to do. We had to finish a video project for Zeynep.

The deadline is Friday. You must finish on time.

So we had to finish on schedule. Luckily we did.

Did you finish on time?
Yes we did Zehra. We’re going to send it now.

But we also finished the video project in time.

The show is tomorrow, right?
Yes.
Good. You’ll get it in time.
That’s great.

So we also finished in time, not late for the show. So there are some situations where ‘on time’ and ‘in time’ might both be possible. Which one we choose depends on what we’re thinking about.

Are you ready yet?
I just want to do my hair.
Well, hurry up or we’ll never get there on time.

Are you ready yet?
I just want to do my hair.
Well, hurry up or we’ll never get there in time.

So when Jay is thinking about the schedule, he says ‘on time’. And when he’s thinking about being late, he says ‘in time’. Now one more thing. We had a great question from Muhammed. ‘On time’ refers to an exact time, but ‘in time’ doesn’t. So Muhammed asked, ‘Could in time mean before or after the exact time?’ The answer is ‘in time’ means before and up to the exact time, but not after. After would be late.

Is there a problem, officer?
Is this your car?
Yes.
The meter runs out in one minute.
I’m leaving right now.
Just in time.

Just one minute later and he would have got a ticket. So in time means before and up to the exact time. But not after. Thanks for a great question Muhammed.

Hi Jason, I’m your surgeon.
My surgeon?
Yes, and these are your tonsils.
My tonsils?
Right. We operated just in time.

Click here to see this video with a clickable transcript.
Click here to see more videos on English grammar.

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