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In Time vs. On Time

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Common mistakes

  1. (NG) I hope the train comes in time.
    1. (OK) I hope the train comes on time
  2. (NG) The bus was just in time today, so I was lucky.
    1. (OK) The bus was on time today, so I was lucky.

Grammar words and phrases in context

Public transportation in this city is not often reliable. The buses and trains don’t usually run on time and this means a lot of people end up getting to where they have to go just in time or worse, late. I try to be on time or early for my appointments, but because of the trains, arriving in time is the best I can hope for.

On Time

When we talk about a person or a thing that is punctual or does something according to the schedule, we can say the person or thing is on time. We can use on time for people or things.

  1. I’m usually on time for work.
  2. I hope the meeting starts on time.
  3. Do you think the train will come on time today?

In Time

Next, when we talk about a person that does something with enough time, we use in time. Using in time has a nuance that there was a possibility of being late, but in fact the person was not late. Note that we only use in time for people.

  1. I arrived at the office in time for the meeting.
  2. I hope we can get to the station in time for the express train.
  3. Even though there was traffic, I was in time for the movie.

 Just In Time

Finally, when we talk about a person that is almost late but not late, we can use just in time. The nuance of just in time is that the person did something barely a moment before the scheduled time. Note that we only use just in time for people.

  1. I arrived at the office just in time for the meeting.
  2. We got to the station just in time for the express train.
  3. Because there was a lot of traffic, I was just in time for the movie.

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