This is a B2 question taken from an old English test paper. The student has an original sentence and is given a new word which they must use to create a new sentence–using between two and five words–without changing the meaning of the original.

There's no chance of Jenny getting here on time
It won't be _______________ here on time.

A private student of mine who's Italian, wrote

It won't be POSSIBLE for Jenny to come here on time.

My book says the solution above earns the candidate one point, in order to earn two full points the correct answer must be:

It won't be | possible for | Jenny to GET/ARRIVE/REACH here on time.

I'm not disputing that the book's solutions are correct, I disagree that "come" isn't included among the options.

With the preposition "to", come and get both work

  1. I COME to work on time. (YES)
    I GET to work on time. (YES)
    I ARRIVE / REACH to work on time. (NO)

The verb arrive can be used in conjunction with the preposition "at":

  1. I ARRIVED at the airport on time (Yes)
    I CAME / GOT / REACHED at the airport on time (NO)

When there is no preposition, all of the verbs below are acceptable.

  1. I usually COME home on time. (YES)
    I usually GET/ARRIVE/REACH home on time. (YES)

Why does Cambridge, the ESOL examining centre, consider "come here on time" incorrect in this instance? Does the meaning change?

  • Related, but not a duplicate: Usage: Come vs Go An answer there points out that it is often the speaker's perspective that controls which word is preferred rather than the direction something or someone travels. The passive nature of the sentence makes it more difficult to decide what perspective to take (I think) so we choose something more neutral like "arrive". "I won't be able to get to your house on time." "Jenny called to let us know she can't come here on time." "It is impossible for Jenny to arrive on time."
    – ColleenV
    Mar 24, 2022 at 14:10
  • How many points does ...be here on time get?
    – EllieK
    Mar 24, 2022 at 17:48
  • @EllieK the full correct answer gets 2 points. The part where it says | POSSIBLE FOR | gets the first mark. | Jenny to get/arrive/reach | gets the second mark. The "here on time" is already included in the transformation sentence.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 24, 2022 at 17:52
  • @Mari-LouA - So, It won't be possible for Jenny to be here on time, gets 0 points. Maybe something was overlooked. Probably fear of the double be.
    – EllieK
    Mar 24, 2022 at 17:58
  • I do think EllieK has a point though that "be" is a perfectly acceptable addition to get/arrive/reach with the limited context that is given. Although I suppose if the book assumes that the student taking the test was taught in a particular way, it is reasonable to limit the possible words there to get the additional point.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 24, 2022 at 18:38

2 Answers 2


I see coming to a place as referring to the action of travelling there, while what happens 'on time' (or not) is the arrival there.

I come to work on time isn't ungrammatical, but I find I get to work on time or I arrive at work on time much more natural utterances.

  • How about I am at work on time?
    – EllieK
    Mar 24, 2022 at 17:53
  • @EllieK - Yes, that's possible too. Mar 24, 2022 at 22:06

COME and GO work differently semantically than GET/ARRIVE/REACH, and I am not taking the prepositions into account here.

Those two terms involve issues of directionality and speaker location that get, arrive and reach do not.

I will only go into one example, as it can be complicated:

My boss is at work or in her mind is thinking as if she were at that location.
We're talking on the phone.
My boss says: Can you please come to work on time tomorrow?
Answer: Yes, I can come to work on time tomorrow.

The Cambridge ESOL probably was taking the idea of location and speakers into consideration as that is the only feature that separates come usage from get/arrive/reach usage.

  • What's the difference if my boss asks Can you please arrive at work on time tomorrow? OR Can you please get to work on time…? Why would "come here on time" be less natural/idiomatic? I get that the speaker refers to the location as if she were there but why is that different from using "arrive" or "get"? (I'd avoid reach work in this instance)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 24, 2022 at 18:05
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA It is not about being idiomatic. It's completely idiomatic. However, come means the person asking is at the place or is at the place in her head. That is the difference. "Are you coming home early tomorrow?" you ask your child. You are at home when you say it. For general statements like: I always arrive on time. [wherever], you wouldn't use the verb come. come/go have directionality features that the other do not.
    – Lambie
    Mar 24, 2022 at 18:30
  • OK "come" isn't interchangeable with "arrive/get/reach".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 24, 2022 at 18:34
  • @Mari-LouA Right, and it's due to the location of the speaker and/or interlocutor.
    – Lambie
    Mar 24, 2022 at 19:45
  • @Mari-LouA It is interchangeable only in some situations. Not all.
    – Lambie
    Mar 26, 2022 at 15:26

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