By vs. At

'By' and 'at' are both used to show 'time' which is why they might confuse learners. In this lesson, we will learn their uses and differences.

"By" vs. "At" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between 'by' and 'at' is that when referring to time, 'by' sets a deadline while 'at' shows an exact time.

Setting a Deadline

We use 'by' to set a particular time. Things must happen before or at the appointed time. Have a look:

The reports are to be on my desk by the end of the day.

Here, we are setting a deadline. The action can be done before or at the appointed time but not after it.

I have to turn in this article by tomorrow morning.

Talking about an Exact Moment

We use 'at' to show an exact moment in time. So we can use hours, a specific time of the day, a certain age, etc. Have a look:

The reports are to be on my desk at the end of the day.

Here, we are setting an exact moment in which the action must be done in.

I have to turn in this article at 7 in the morning

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