“At the end” vs “in the end” explained with examples

in the end, at the end, difference, prepositions

  • At the end of the day we went home. In the end, it was a long day.
  • At the end of the game, our team won. In the end, our team won.
  • We were happy in the end. We weren’t happy at the end of the movie.
  • The heroes won in the end. The heroes celebrated at the end of their journey.
  • The use of the phrases was clear in the end, because it was explained at the end of the list of examples:

Simply put, at refers to a specific time or location, whilst in the end is an idiomatic phrase that means in conclusion or in summary. However, the difference between at the end and in the end shows one of the main differences between use of the prepositions at and in.

 

Consider:

We ate at the dinner table. but We ate in the dining room.

At in all  these examples refers to a specific time or location; in refers to being inside a general area. At the end is used to point to the end as a specific point in time, whilst in the end is used, more idiomatically, to talk about a general “end” zone: the summary or conclusion.

This could be demonstrated in a diagram. If we were talking about a film:

at the end in the end, prepositions

 

At the end of the day, in the end…

At the end of the day and In the end, can both be used idiomatically to mean ‘in conclusion’. But At the end, and In the end of the day, are both incorrect – because the rules that make them different (above), also tell you how to form the idioms:

  • At the end of the day, I was tired.
  • In the end, I was tired.

These sentences could be taken literally (meaning exactly what it says) or figuratively (using the general idiomatic meaning). If you are unsure about how to apply the prepositions, even in idioms, thinking about the grammatical use of the words can help you decide.

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