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On time and in time

Double-click on any word and see its definition from Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

What is the difference between on time and in time?"

"What is the difference between in the end and at the end?"

Michael Swan’s excellent Practical English Usage (Oxford University Press), provides a succinct answer to both of these questions:

"On time = at the planned time; neither late nor early:

Peter wants the meeting to start exactly on time.

In time = with enough time to spare; before the last moment:

He would have died if they hadn’t got him to the hospital in time." p. 450

"In the end = finally, after a long time:

In the end, I got a visa for Russia.

At the end = at the point where something stops:

I think the film’s a bit weak at the end. p. 450

To see examples of the use of these prepositional phrases, see the Web Concordancer:


When you get to the home page, type each expression in turn into the 'search string' field. If you select 'The Times January 1995' in the 'select corpus' field, and then click on the 'search for concordances' button, you will find 123 examples of in time, 34 examples of on time, 101 uses of in the end, and 343 uses of at the end.

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