In, at, by the end

In the end of the period the figure was almost 200.

Houston. We have a preposition problem!

At the end

The following are possible and extremely common in IELTS Task 1 writing:

  • At the end of the period.
  • At the beginning of the period.
  • During the period.

Notice that at the end is part of a longer phrase specifying a particular ‘end’, in this case ‘the period’.

By the end

This is similar to at the end in that a particular end is mentioned (2006, the day). Notice here that there is often an unusual grammatical structure featuring a perfect tense.

  • By the middle of the day he had read half of the book but was too tired to continue reading.
  • By + past time expression + subject + had + V3
  • By tomorrow evening he will have finished the book!
  • By + future time expression + subject + will have + V3

See this post for more information about the use of past perfect tense in IELTS Task 1 writing.

In the end

This belongs in a different kind of text – NOT IELTS Task 1!

In a narrative (a story) there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, unlike the way data is represented on a graph, the parts of a story usually do not correspond to precise points in time.

The beginning of a story can take place over a few hours, days, weeks, even years. Likewise the middle and the end. When we refer to these approximate periods of time, we use in.

  • In the beginning the prince was kind to the local people, but after he became king he was corrupted by power and in the end he was feared by everyone.

In the end is often used as a synonym for words like eventually and ultimately:

  • The climbers faced many challenges but in the end they succeeded in reaching the summit.
  • (eventually – after a period of time)
  • A teacher can help but in the end it is the student who must make the effort. 
  • (ultimately – other factors are less important)

Indonesian flag Both words are often translated from the Indonesian akhirnya, although as you can see the English meanings are slightly different!

Conclusion

In our opening statement there is reference to a particular period, and so we need:

  • At the end of the period the figure was almost 200.

Practice

Select suitable items from the drop-down menus to complete the text below.

Select words from the drop-down menus to complete the text. When you have finished, click 'Check your answers!' for feedback.

OK I understand

everyone had high hopes for the business. Economic conditions were right, and the management team was strong. of the economic crisis, quarterly results showed no downturn in sales and everyone was optimistic that the company would survive. Unfortunately our business met the same fate as so many others, and we had to close stores all over the country. However, we refuse to accept defeat, and we are planning to start a new business of this year. Hopefully of next year sales figures will have reached similar levels as were recorded of our most successful year on record – 2010!

Answer Key

Answers here, but only if you're really stuck!

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