position of "on time" in sentence

Arcona

Senior Member
German
Hello,

I want to write the following sentence to a friend but I’m not sure if it is correct. Although it expresses what I want to say it sounds a bit strange to me.

If I had gotten their postcard, saying that they would be at the concert, on time, I would have gone there too.

I am wondering if
1. "on time" is in the right place
2. saying in "... their postcard, saying that …” is correct?

Thank you.
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "Correct" does not always mean "good." I see your problem and suggest you reword it to make it less difficult to comprehend. (We call that "readability)

    You don't need to stuff everything into a single sentence.

    Try: "They sent a postcard saying they would be at the concert. If I had received it on time, I would have gone there too."
     
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    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    You also need to choose carefully between "on time" and "in time".

    I suspect that "in time" is likely to be the intended meaning.
     

    Arcona

    Senior Member
    German
    Thank you, Linkway, for pointing out that I should use "in time" instead of "on time" in my sentence. I see the difference now. (I received the postcard when the concert was already over.)

    sdgraham, thank you for your suggestion. I agree, it's better not to put everything in one sentence in my example.

    But what about the following sentence?
    I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't received the letter, saying that they are supposed to pick him up from the airport, in time.

    The only other way I can think of is:
    I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't received the letter in time, that said that they are supposed to pick him up from the airport.
    But that sounds even worse, doesn't it?
     

    Antoine Meyer

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    If I had gotten their postcard, saying that they would be at the concert, on time, I would have gone there too.

    One aspect of the above sentence that is incorrect is the use of commas, all of which except the one immediately after "time" should be omitted. In addition, "gone there" should be replaced by, for example, "attended it."
     
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    Arcona

    Senior Member
    German
    Thanks a lot for your reply, Antoine Meyer.
    Then I should also omit all the commas in the following sentence, shouldn't I? But is it still understandable that "in time" refers to "receiving the letter"?

    I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't received the letter saying that they are supposed to pick him up from the airport in time.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    It is unclear in your sentence whether "in time" refers to receiving the letter or picking him up at the airport. As sdgraham suggested about your earlier sentence, you may be trying to make your sentence do too much. If it has to be one sentence, "in time" should be moved closer to "received the letter" for clarity.
     

    Arcona

    Senior Member
    German
    Thank you very much, Florentia52.

    Somehow I would like it to be one sentence. Is the following a more understandable way to say it then? But it doesn't sound good either, does it?

    I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't received the letter in time that said that they are supposed to pick him up from the airport.
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    If forced at knife-point to write all of that in one sentence, that's probably how I'd write it, except I'd say "were supposed to…"
     

    Arcona

    Senior Member
    German
    Thank you very much again for your help, Florentia52. I'll reconsider putting it all in one sentence.
     

    Antoine Meyer

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Thanks a lot for your reply, Antoine Meyer.
    Then I should also omit all the commas in the following sentence, shouldn't I? But is it still understandable that "in time" refers to "receiving the letter"?

    I wonder what would have happened if they hadn't received the letter saying that they are supposed to pick him up from the airport in time.
    Yes. "In time" could be replaced by "on time" because there is no important difference between these two wordings; they both have the same meaning, are commonly used, and are correct.
     
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    Arcona

    Senior Member
    German
    Thanks a lot Antoine and ain'ttranslationfun?.
    I think "in time" is the better choice in my examples.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    Yes. "In time" could be replaced by "on time" because there is no important difference between these two wordings; they both have the same meaning, are commonly used, and are correct.
    No they don't.
    on time - at the scheduled/expected time
    in time - prior to some deadline which is independent of the scheduled/expected time

    If I need a document by 8am tomorrow morning and someone sends it using a "delivered by 10am" service, then if it arrives at 9am it is on time but not in time.
     

    Antoine Meyer

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    No they don't.
    on time - at the scheduled/expected time
    in time - prior to some deadline which is independent of the scheduled/expected time

    If I need a document by 8am tomorrow morning and someone sends it using a "delivered by 10am" service, then if it arrives at 9am it is on time but not in time.
    This is the definition of "in time" in the New Oxford American Dictionary: "Not late; punctual." And the definition of "on time" in the same dictionary is "Punctual; punctually." There is no mention that "in time" means "prior to some deadline which is independent of the scheduled/ expected time."
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Dictionaries can't be expected to cover every aspect of usage that native speakers learn from experience. Glasguensis description is accurate.

    In fact, our WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English has these definitions among the idioms listed under time:
    in time:

    • early enough: Come in time for dinner.
    • in the future; eventually: In time he'll understand.
    • in the correct rhythm or tempo: The drummer isn't in time.
    on time:

    • at the specified time: For once the train was on time.
    • to be paid for within a designated period of time, as in installments.
     
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