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Are the expressions "at the time" and "at that time" interchangeable?

What are the differences between the two? How do use them?

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The phrase "at that time" establishes a reference to the context of this phrase (e.g "The great War was fought in the beginning of the 20th century. At that time,....") , relating it to the time, of the event being discussed in the context preceding this phrase. But the phrase "at the time" is usually followed by an explicit time reference, usually by using the simple preposition "of" (e.g "At the time of the Great War...") which separates the time reference from the preceding context and adds it after the phrase. It is seldom used without the preposition "of" and usually refers to a comparatively less specific instant of time, than "that time".

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    This dictionary says that the expressions are equivalent: at the time (adv.) / at that time, in those days, then >> I agree with this, with the proviso that there needs to be a contextual temporal indicator with either variant. '"at the time" is often followed by an explicit time reference, often using the simple preposition "of" '. Not always: He had given a quick glance up and down the street and then had slipped inside and bought the book.... At the time he was not conscious of wanting it for any particular purpose. [1984] Sep 1 '14 at 21:47

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