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On, In, At the time

Prepositions are the words that relate two phrases, words or clauses. For example, “John is sitting on the table.” The preposition “on” describes where John is sitting. We use many prepositions to describe about time too. In this article, let us discuss how the meaning changes with different prepositions being added to ‘time’.

  Ramya Shankar  —  Grammar Tips
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In time

When you do something in the last moment, you are just in time. That means you weren’t late for it, and saved yourself from some disaster (bad situation).

·         I couldn’t submit my application in time, so they cancelled my visa.  

·         I reached airport just in time to catch the flight; I was the last person to board.

·         We reached the hospital in time and could help the boy receive the emergency treatment.

Note that the use of ‘just’ further emphasizes on the ‘last minute’ completion of something.

·         She reached just in time to see the trailers before the movie.

Sometimes, we also use the phrase, in the nick of time. This is again to emphasize the completion of something just before the deadline.

·         The driver turned the bus in the nick of time to prevent an accident.

At the time

Note that with at, we use ‘the’ to make the phrase grammatically correct. At the time means at a particular period in the past, when compared to how the situation is in the present.

·         At the time we were young, we used to walk 1 km to go to school.

·         At the time of her arrival, no one was in the airport to receive her.

·         Giving all the books to your friend seemed like a good idea at the time.

At that time

We use at ‘that’ time to refer to a particular time in the past.

·         The lift suddenly jerked because of power cut. Thankfully, there were no passengers inside at that time.

·         Women being allowed to go for movies late at night wasn’t a usual sight at that time.

Note that, at the time needs a support statement because it refers to an occasion in the past over present, while at that time doesn’t need so as it refers to a particular time in past.

Sometimes, it is correct to use at the time and at that time interchangeably. For example,

Taking a huge amount of cash from the bank dint seem like a good idea at the time OR at that time.

On time

When something is happening exactly as planned, or at the planned time, we used ‘on’. For example,

·         I am always on time for work.

·         I reached the conference hall on time.

·         The train is on time.

·         You should go for the interview on time otherwise you will lose the job.

Which one should you use?

1.       She arrived ____ time for the show.

2.       _____ time, children did not have too many distractions and had more time to play.

3.       We got to know the news ___ time and could books our tickets for a good deal.

4.       ______ time when we were still coping up with the loss of my grandfather, my grandmother developed some major knee problems.

5.       There is no alternative to going ____ time for the conference.

Let us know the answers through comments.

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