In the end/At the end (Common English mistakes)

The Short Version

  • At the end of something
  • In the end, …

The Details

In the end is a set phrase that means “eventually”. It normally shows the result of a long period of time, or careful thought.

  • In the end, we arrived at midnight. [After a long journey, or maybe you’d had a problem on the way or had planned to arrive earlier]
  • We did decide to go in the end. [We weren’t sure, we considered not going]

At the end is the one we use directly with a space or period of time.

  • There’s a shop at the end of the street.
  • Let’s have another meeting at the end of the week.

It can be used for anything that might have an end in a metaphorical sense.

  • You can get your phones back at the end of the exam.
  • There’s a shock twist at the end of the film

At the end also occurs in a few idioms.

  • At the end of the day is similar to “in the end”.
  • At the end of the line/road
  • At the end of your tether/rope means you have no patience left.
  • Light at the end of the tunnel is the end of a long, difficult and/or unpleasant situation or task.

Note that it’s normally “at the end of something” but just “in the end“.

Practise

Fill in the gaps in these sentences with in the end, at the end or one of the idioms above:

  1. __________, there’s no reason not to try it.
  2. I’m __________ with you. Sit down and shut up!
  3. She’s still unhappy there, but she’s only got three months left. She can see the __________ now.
  4. He forgot to sign his name __________ of the letter.
  5. I’m leaving for my gap year* __________ of August.
  6. __________, he’s still very young. He’s still got time.
  7. “__________, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

*gap year = a year’s break that some students choose to have between school and university. There are lots of options: some people travel, some do voluntary or paid work, some people learn new skills, some people pursue sport or art, etc.

Answers

1. In the end/At the end of the day  2. at the end of my tether/rope 3. light at the end of the tunnel  4. at the end  5. at the end  6. In the end/At the end of the day  7. In the end (is the real quote, “At the end of the day” would also make sense)

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