Prepositions have a habit of changing the meanings of words and phrases slightly. Take “in time” and “on time,” for example. Both phrases only have one word that differs, but they have a subtle meaning difference, and this article will explore what that is.
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What Is The Difference Between “In Time” And “On Time”?
You should use “in time” when completing a task within an allotted time frame or before a deadline is hit. It can also mean that there’s time remaining to complete something else. You should use “on time” when you accomplish something exactly as expected or on schedule.
Generally, “in time” is more lenient, allowing us to complete a task or expect something within a given deadline. If we expect something to take us thirty minutes, an “in time” effort will be anything less than that.
On the other hand, “on time” is more specific and rigorous. We usually complete a task in the time expected of us, and the task is delivered right on schedule. If we are given thirty minutes, we make use of the full thirty minutes before completing the task.
Is “In Time” Or “On Time” Used The Most?
It might help you to know which of the two phrases is more common. That way, you might have a better grasp of which one most native speakers are comfortable using themselves.
According to this graph, “in time” is the most popular choice of the two. That’s because it’s less specific in how we can use it, making it more appealing for most writers.
“On time” still gets plenty of recorded use, but “in time” is simply more effective at conveying its meaning in more scenarios.
Examples Of How To Use “In Time” In A Sentence
We believe that examples are the best ways to learn about new language ideas. We’ll start with using “in time” in a sentence, so you can see how it might work.
- I’d like to finish in time to see my favorite TV show later!
- I arrived in time to see them complete the building, which is what I was hoping for!
- You’re just in time, and I made you a plate!
- I completed it in time, and now I have plenty of time to rest and relax.
- You’re in time for the show! I hope you like it!
- I completed the project in time to allow myself a chance to catch up on other deadlines.
- I arrived in time to see everyone I wanted to, which I wasn’t expecting.
“In time” is best when we want to talk about saving some time because of how efficient we were with a task or deadline. We use it when we complete something to make time for something else.
Examples Of How To Use “On Time” In A Sentence
“On time” is slightly more specific, but it still works really well, and knowing about it could help you use it.
- I’d like to finish on time. I don’t like staying here later than I have to.
- I need to arrive on time; otherwise, my boss is going to fire me!
- The train arrived on time, which was good because I was panicking that I’d be late.
- You’re right on time, as expected.
- Your delivery is on time, and you can expect it in three hours.
- I’m on time with these deadlines, which gives me a little bit of wiggle room.
- You finished on time, and that’s good enough for me.
“On time” means that something happened exactly when it was expected to. It works well to show that we’ve met our deadlines right on schedule or that a train has arrived exactly when we’ve expected it to.
“In Time” And “On Time” – Synonyms
If you’re struggling with the differences between the two words, perhaps one of these synonyms will help you out. With these, you might find that you don’t have to worry too much about the preposition usage and can focus on your meaning instead.
- In good time
- On schedule
- As expected
- When expected
- On the dot
- In good time
- At the right time
- Not too late
- With time to spare
These synonyms work well for both “In time” and “on time.” Whether you want to say you completed a task with time to spare or whether it was right on schedule, you can use any of the above to do exactly that.
Is It “Just In Time” Or “Just On Time”?
Finally, there are a few specific sayings that come up when using prepositions. It’s important to know what these are, and you might have noticed them earlier in some of the examples.
“Just in time” is the correct form to use, as it means that we’ve made it with time to spare. However, “just” means that there was barely any time left before we were “late,” even though we still have a few seconds or minutes left on the deadline.
You can look at this graph to see the difference in usage between the two. From this, it’s clear that “just in time” is the only correct version to use. “Just on time” has only been mentioned a few times, and most of the time, it’s due to a written mistake and is overlooked.
“In” is the only preposition that works here:
- Correct:You arrived just in time for my finale!
- Incorrect:You made it just on time!
Do We Say “Right On Time” Or “Right In Time”?
“Right on time” is the other phrase we might use, and again it only applies to one preposition.
“Right on time” is the correct form, as it means we’ve delivered something or completed something exactly (“right”) on the deadline or expected time slot that we were given. “Right in time” is sometimes used, but “just in time” is more popular and makes more sense.
According to this graph, “right on time” is by far the most popular choice because it’s the correct version of the two. “Right in time” is a misinterpretation of the phrase, though it still sees some usage, making it somewhat acceptable for most native speakers.
- Correct: As always, you’re right on time.
- Incorrect: You’re right in time, which is great.
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