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STCrowley Jul 2nd, 2009 01:05 pm

The hero dies in the end.
Normally, I like to think that I answer English questions instead of asking them, but a student stumped me today:

We talked about the prepositions of time and the fact that 'at' is used for an exact time. No problem.

But then, we got into a story about heroes and someone said "The hero dies in the end." I didn't think anything of it, but the aforementioned student said "shouldn't that be, 'at the end?'" And, to be honest, I can't explain why "There hero dies in the end" sounds okay, but not "I'll see you in the end of the movie?" (Unless we say that the words 'of the story' are understood in the first example.)

What do you think?

susan53 Jul 2nd, 2009 01:38 pm

Re: The hero dies in the end.
Two different meanings:
- "at the end" means "at the end of something" - so : "the hero dies at the end of the film" - or book, or whatever.

- "in the end" simply means eventually or finally ie after everything else has happened.

So, for example : We looked at loads of different carpets, but in the end we chose a grey one. (Ok, Ok so we're redecorating the house this summer and I'm a bit obsessed.) Here "at" is not possible because there isn't a fixed "thing" like a book or film with a distinct beginning, middle and end. Just a very long drawn out (I promise you) process.

Another example : At the end of the meeting, they brought in coffee and biscuits. versus There was a lot of discussion in the meeting, but in the end, everyone voted in favour. In the second example, the vote didn't necessarily happen at the end of the meeting - it may well have been half way through. But it was the conclusion of the process under focus.

Hope that helps.

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