What is the difference between “at the end” and “in the end”?

English learners commonly confuse the phrases “At the end” and “at the end.”

A great way to remember the difference between them is by remembering that the preposition points to a particular position in time, place, or sequence. For example, the girl is at the dentist, or my friends are at the park.

While in

represents a situation in which something is immersed, located or inside something else. For example, in water, in the future, or the words of this article.

At the end

Synonym: last, finally. in the end

It means the time or place something stops or ends. It is commonly used as a “prepositional phrase” describing real endings.



  • At the end of

the street.

This phrase means that what we are talking about is where the street ends


Tom: I need to buy some milk. Is there a store nearby? Sally: Yes, there is a small supermarket down the street. Tom: Thank you, Sally!

  • At the end of my to-do list.

This means that the item we are discussing is the last on your to-do list.

Buy milk Iron my shirt Pay my bills

Wash the dishes

Tom: I have to buy milk, iron my shirt, and then pay my bills. Dishes are at the bottom of my to-do list.

  • At the end of my presentation.

This means that something happened when the presentation ended.

Sally: What was the work like today? Tom: Great! My boss even complimented my English at the end of my presentation.

You can remember “at the end” as a pointer to a particular time and space. We use it similarly to when we would use prepositional phrases like “at the beginning.” For example, at the beginning of the story, or at the front of the house.

However, there is a moment when at the end it can mean the same as “at the end“. The commonly used idiom “at the end of the day” has the similar meaning to “at the end“. At the end of the day it means in conclusion, or the result is that…

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synonymous: Ultimately, after all.

In the end, it is a commonly used English phrase that connects a statement of result or result with a previous story. It is frequently used when talking about the end result after a series of complicated and confusing changes or events.



  • In the end, I ate a steak

. This indicates that a decision

had to be made and that the result was a decision to get the blue item.

Jane: How was your birthday dinner last night? Sarah: It was lovely! The restaurant we went to had plenty to choose from on their menu, but in the end, I had a steak. It was delicious.

  • In the end, I got it for free.

This indicates that the result of the story before this statement is that this person did not have to pay for the article he is discussing.

Tom: I heard you had a problem with the pizza delivery company last night? John: Yes, I did! It took them two hours to deliver my pizza and they even forgot to add extra pepperoni. I was so angry that I called the manager, and in the end, I got it for free.

Punctuation tip:

When using the idiom “at the end,” remember to follow it with a comma. “In the end, we are all students of something.”

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A simple reminder when deciding between “At

the end” and “at the end”:

If you’re talking about the end of a thing, time, or a physical place, use the prepositional phrase, “at the end.”

When you want to conclude the result of a series of events, or provide a clear statement of an outcome, use the idiom “at the end.”

When we use the end refers to the moment when a single event is stopped. Whereas, when we use at the end, we refer to a sequence of events.

Take a look at the following examples:

At the end of the school day, the students finished their work and tidy up the classroom.

  • In the end, the students finished their work and tidied up the classroom.

The first example refers to a specific event “the end of the school day.” This is a one-time event and does not refer to a series of events.

While “at the end” in the second example is talking about a series of events. We don’t know what the series of events are, but we can imagine them to be school events like correcting assignments, completing assignments, talking to other students, etc.

“At the end of the school day”

only deals with that particular part of the day, however, “at the end” refers to other events that occurred during the school day, before the end of the school day.