Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Time is a commodity in American culture so when you talk about it you have to get it right.

What is the difference between “on time” and “in time” in English?

Find out today and get real-life examples on how to use these two phrases.

Hi Lindsay, How is it going? Hope everything goes smoothly

All Ears English is my all-time favorite podcast! Thank you for all the episodes! I love them! I do have a question! Could you please explain the difference between “on time” and “in time”?  For what I know, They are almost same but have  slightly different meanings?? I can’t figure it out how to apply in sentences! Thank you!

Best regards, AEE Listener


We are a time-obsessed culture

We need to understand that Americans consider time important to do business in the US.

Time is a currency.

It’s the most important currency because it’s the only thing you can’t get back.

You can always earn more money. You can get back power and respect but time is gone when it passes.


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What is the difference between “on time” and “in time”?

  • To be on time: This is more about a specific schedule and time on the clock.
    • Example: “You were supposed to be there at 3:15pm and you got there at 3:15 so you got there on time.”


  • To be in time: This could be about the time on the clock but it’s more about events (train arriving, milk spilling,) not referencing a clock time. It means you arrive early enough and you are not late. Sometimes we add “to be just in time”.
    • “The train left a few minutes early but I got there in time.”
    • “The train left early but I got there just in time.”
    • “The baby was about to spill his milk but I grabbed his bottle just in time.” (this doesn’t have anything to do with clock time- you couldn’t say “just on time” in this situation)


Other time expressions:

  • “Just in the nick of time”: When you want to really emphasize how close you were to missing something.
    • “They were announcing my boarding group when I got into the lounge. I got there just in the nick of time.”
  • “To run out of time” : Time is growing short.
    • “Come on Michelle I only have until 4pm to record today. We’re running out of time.”
  • “The clock is ticking”:  Time is running out. You might use this when you are putting time pressure on someone with some kind of deadline to take action to claim something like a discount on a new car.
    • “So what is your decision? The clock is ticking.”


What questions do you have from today?

Let us know in the comments below.

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