Until recently, I was sure that when past simple and past perfect simple were used in a sentence joined by by the time , past simple would always come in the time clause.I encountered the following sentence:By the time they had finished their homework, it was time for bed.This use is new to me as I know that by the time means that when a happens b happens.

I appreciate your help.

  • By does not necessarily set up a sequence, which seems to be implied by your when A happens B happens. By T means rather at or before T. Sep 25, 2013 at 19:16

1 Answer 1


Seems quite correct to me. Were you thinking it should have read 'By the time it was time for bed, they had finished their homework'? That is also entirely possible as a correct sentence but carries a quite different nuance of meaning. Whilst the first one infers disappointment that there was no time left between homework and bed, the second one emphasises that there had been time available to complete the homework.

By the way, editor, your spell-checker does not accept proper English spelling, only American.

  • 2
    The editor is on your browser, not the website. Sep 25, 2013 at 18:57
  • Oh dear, that's Google Chrome. Means they won't get invited to the Queen's garden party!
    – user52780
    Sep 26, 2013 at 9:26
  • There's probably a preference you can set somewhere. Sep 26, 2013 at 13:12
  • No I checked it out. The only language they understand is American English, which is of course a hybrid of English and multiple other languages, English being already a hybrid of Anglo-Saxon, Norman French, Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hindu and goodness-knows what else.
    – user52780
    Sep 26, 2013 at 15:39

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