in time vs on time

  • Le Pamplemousse

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    On time means "punctually":

    "Make sure to be on time for the party." (Don't be late)

    In time means "before a time limit expires", such as in sports (basketball, in this case):

    "Did he get the shot off in time?" (before the clock ran out)

    If you could give specific examples, it might help me a bit more, since this is one of those concepts that English speakers know subliminally.
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    On time = at the planned time; neither late nor early.

    In time = with enough time to spare; before the last moment.
     

    Le Pamplemousse

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    On time = at the planned time; neither late nor early.

    I disagree with that assessment...I could arrive on time for my dentist appointment and still be a few minutes early, as long as I was there at the time of the appointment.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    I agree with Le Pamplemousse, being early for the dentist is being on time.

    I see the split between in time and on time as
    in time covers an activity which has been completed before a certain time-limit, or deadline. The test must be completed within the alloted two hours.
    on time covers one particular instant. One is either on time or late. The kick-off is at 3.30.
     

    maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    Technically yes, but practically it is on time.

    You wish to go to the theatre. The show starts at 20:00
    They have a policy of not allowing latecomers to disturb the audience.
    There is a sign saying "Those who do not arrive on time will not be admited to the auditorium until the end of the first act."
    What time will you arrive at?
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    maxiogee said:
    Technically yes, but practically it is on time.

    You wish to go to the theatre. The show starts at 20:00
    They have a policy of not allowing latecomers to disturb the audience.
    There is a sign saying "Those who do not arrive on time will not be admited to the auditorium until the end of the first act."
    What time will you arrive at?

    I will arrive early.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Clearly there are different interpretations of on time and in time.

    I agree with river:
    On time = at the planned time; neither late nor early.
    In time = with enough time to spare; before the last moment.

    ... and with others from the earlier threads.

    We also agree with the OED, which says:
    In time: Soon or early enough, not too late.
    Letters put into any of the Receiving Houses before twelve o'clock will be in time for the early mails.
    On time: Punctually.
    As my airline friends would say, I prefer on-time departures.
     
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