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Jul 4, 2018

The difference between arriving at a place "on time" and "in time"

Is there any difference between arriving at a place "on time" and "in time"? Yes, there is. But most English users, especially second learners of the language, often use the former (on time) regardless of the time they arrive. Therefore, this article is written to ensure an appropriate use of these phrases by English users, particularly the loyal users of "on time" or those who use these phrases interchangeably.
The difference between arriving at a place "on time" and "in time"

As regards arrival, on time means at the appointed or expected time, on schedule, neither early nor late etc. If someone arrived at a place on time, it means they got there at the specified or stated time. For example, if we had a meeting at 10:00 am and Tammy arrived at 10:00 am, it means Tammy arrived on time.

On the other hand, in time means sufficiently or a little early, before the specified time etc. If someone arrived at a place in time, it means they got there before the exact time; thus, having enough or a little time to spare. For example, if an interview was scheduled for 8:00 am but Tammy arrived at 7:45 am, it means Tammy arrived in time.


Some sentence examples
i. Despite the traffic jam, I arrived at the meeting on time.

ii. Tammy always arrives on time.

iii. In order to be among the first five persons to see the doctor, the girl decided to arrive at the hospital in time.

iv. The woman who always arrives on time surprises everyone by arriving in time.

From the foregoing, the semantic distinction between these phrases is quite obvious; therefore, English users should always use them appropriately in order not to alter the actual meaning(s) of their statements.

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