ON time or IN time? – Learn FAST (2021)

Prepositions are difficult to learn in your second language, but they are important. More than one of my students has asked the question: “How do you use in and on for time?” They often ask how to use the common expressions IN time and ON time. Here is a quick answer:

ON time = not late
“The 10:35 train was ON time.” = It left at 10:35, it left the station at its planned time.

IN time = soon enough
“My train is late, I hope I am home IN time for dinner.” = Soon enough for dinner.

Now with AUDIO – Improve your English listening skills with the Podcast audio of this post at the bottom of the page on SoundCloud.

How do you use IN and ON for time?

On time

ON time = not late
If something happens ON time, it happens at the time which was planned.


“The 10:35 train was ON time.” = The train left at 10:35, it left the station at its planned time.

“Let’s meet at the restaurant at 6:30 tomorrow. Please be ON time because we have a reservation.” = Please don’t be late.

The opposite of “ON time” is “late.”

“The 9:20 bus is late today. Probably because of the bad weather.”

Probably is an Adverb of Probability -LEARN MORE!

IN time or ON time

In time

IN time = soon enough
We say someone is IN time for something, or IN time to do something.


“My train is late, I hope I am home IN time for dinner.” = Soon enough for dinner.

“I sent my sister a birthday gift. I hope it arrives IN time.” = For her birthday.

“I hope I get home IN time to watch the baseball game.” Soon enough to watch the game.

The opposite of “IN time” is “too late.”

“I wanted to get concert tickets for Saturday but when I got to the stadium it was too late. The tickets were sold out.”

On time details & examples

ON TIME is often used with the verb ARRIVE

arrive – to get to a place, especially at the end of a journey

“Everyone arrived on time for the meeting. The boss was very happy.”

BE on time
ON TIME is also used after the verb TO BE

“The meeting started at 3:00 as scheduled. Everyone was on time for a change.”

Right on time
Someone or something can BE RIGHT ON TIME – Arriving exactly at the planned or scheduled time. 

“My train is here, right on time.”

A: Sorry for the delay, traffic was terrible today.
B: Don’t worry, you’re right on time.

In time details & examples

Just in time
IN TIME is often used with the adverb JUST
Just in time = at the last possible time.

“Curtis got to the meeting just in time. The boss was about to start when he arrived.”

In the nick of time
Another expression with a similar meaning is IN THE NICK OF TIME
In the nick of time = At the last possible moment before a deadline or before something begins or ends

“I got a new apartment close to my job and close to the train station. I found it in the nick of time, my current apartment lease ends in two weeks.”

IN time and ON time – In the NEWS

Lifeguard shortage means Hellertown pool won’t open on time

LA to reopen nearly 30 pools – just in time for heatwave

On Time or In Time – Podcast audio

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