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This question already has an answer here:

Do both imply the same meaning?

  1. John told me to be there at 6pm. I will be there on time.
  2. John told me to be there at 6pm. I will be there in time.
  3. John told me to be there at 6pm. I will be there at that time.

I can feel that in time needs a for or a to but am not sure. Like in I'll be there in time for the show to start. or I'll be there in time to see it. (on time won't work)

marked as duplicate by Nathan Tuggy, Em., user178049, Laure, Glorfindel May 3 '17 at 10:30

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  • You are expected to reach airport in time and your flight is expected to depart on time – Hanky Panky May 4 '17 at 5:36
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On time = punctual

in time = timely with respect to something which will happen or a situation that may arise.

The meeting starts at 10AM. Please be on time. Don't be late.

The train left at noon. I arrived at 11:45, but not in time to get a seat. The seats were all taken, and I had to stand in the aisle.

If we place the order now, the office furniture should arrive in time for the new employees.

  • "on time" means strictly or ~at an exact time? And "in time" means just before or at the last moment? – SovereignSun May 3 '17 at 5:15
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    @SovereignSun: "On time" means "there's a schedule, and I want you to follow the schedule." "In time for [event]" means "before [event] happens." "In time to [verb phrase]" means "early enough that there is still time to [verb phrase]." – Kevin May 3 '17 at 5:50
  • "just in time" means "at the last moment when something is still possible" whereas "in time" means "at a moment when something is still possible". The "something" can be tacit: The trains were running late. -- Oh no, did you miss your plane?? No, I got to the airport in time [to catch the flight]. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 3 '17 at 11:31
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Their meanings are similar, but they are not the same.

"On time" simply means at the specified time. In your first example sentence, the speaker will be there at the specified time (6 PM).

"In time" suggests a deadline that must be met. You can use "for" after it to say what the deadline is for, but if it's already relevant contextually, you can often leave it out.

The two can be mutually relevant, though.

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"In time" can mean two things:

  • Eventually. "In time, you will understand what I'm saying to you, thought right now, you don't understand."
  • With an adequate amount of time to perform a subsequent action. "Will we be at the mall in time for me to run inside to the ATM before it closes?"

"On time" means there's an expected time of the day that something's going to occur at. It's a more exact term.

  • "When we looked at the monitors in the airport terminal, it told us that Flight 12345 was scheduled to arrive on time at 5:35 p.m."
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On time = at the appointed hour

In time = before some event is finished.

That is the difference.

  • I love this answer. Very clear. – ell May 2 '17 at 23:18
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I come from a long career in programming, so my thoughts would be logic based. In the context you have presented:

  • On Time refers to the specified time.
  • In Time refers to any time prior to as well as including the specified time

If this was geometry, 6PM would be a point on a time line. On Time would be a reference that only states that you would be at that point on the timeline. In Time would not need to be a solitary point, it could be another line, an intersection, line segment etc that shares that point.

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