Which one is correct ─ "on time" or "in time"? Are both correct? If so, when is one or the other used? This has been very confusing to me. I have tried to thrash out a simple rule when one or the other could be used: "in time" could be used when you are able to take a one-off action (say "x") within due time; but, when "x" is not a one-off action ─ that is to say, is a continuous-kind of action ─ you use "on time" (or, in certain cases, even "before time") to say that "x" has been done within due time. The rule could be further explained by taking example of a train. When you refer to the running of a train, you say that the train is running "on time"; but when refer to the reaching of the train a particular station, you say the train reached the station "in time". I do not know if I am correct. Can anyone tell me if I am correct?
Both are correct. For instance, "The firemen got to the burning house just in time," versus "I arrived at my job interview on time." "On time" is often clock time, while "in time" is less specific.
You might say, "With his Alzheimer's progressing rapidly, my grandfather was lost in time." While, "In time, they will learn not to criticize their elders."
! "On time" - there is an expected time. We are meeting friends for dinner at 7. I hope we will be on time and we don't make them wait for us.
"In time" - there is a deadline. If we are past this deadline, we will miss the chance to do something. The show starts at 8 p.m. and no one is admitted after the show starts. I hope we will make it to the theater in time
There's a subtle difference.
Suppose the train's departure time is 1800 hr from Station A.
If you ask whether the train is running late, you may get an answer like:
No, the train is on time.
This means the train's departure time is 1800 hr (spot on). It is not late.
On the other hand, 'in time' means reaching the destination within the time. It is not reaching on DOT 1800 hr.
Say, if you reach the station by 1745 hr, you may say...
Yeah, I reached station in time.
'in' talks about a scope of reaching the station. You don't miss the train.
But if you sit in the train, and in a next moment, it starts leaving the platform, you reached (spot) on time.
If you miss the train, you may say -
I missed the train. I could not reach on time.
We often hear that I am reaching in 5 minutes which defines the scope of reaching within 5 minutes.