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The Free Dictionary says that Ending is "a conclusion or termination, a concluding part; a finale: a happy ending.", among others. And for "End" it says "either extremity of something that has length: the end of the pier. 2. The outside or extreme edge or physical limit; a boundary: the end of town."

So, are they really different? Or can they be interchangeable?

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I wouldn't use them with complete interchangeability. I'd say that an ending is the final step in a chronological sequence, while an end is an extremity of a physical or abstract thing. It might be reasonable to say that the ending of a story is also an end, in that it is an extremity of the chronological line that the story follows.

  • I agree with that, and that is my doubt. Can you give me examples in which only one is acceptable? – Sasha Nicolas Jun 20 '14 at 17:32
  • I am at the end of my rope here. To what end [for what purpose] should we give you these examples? / Conductor to rehearsing musicians: "Let's take it from 3 bars before the first ending." – Brian Donovan Jun 20 '14 at 18:44
  • @Sasha: any example at all will do. The words simply mean different things, as your very own dictionary definition already says. They pretty much cannot mean the exact same thing due to blocking. So I invite you to play the opposite game: try to come up with a single example where they are interchangeable. You will quickly realize that it is all but impossible. – RegDwigнt Jun 20 '14 at 20:22
  • I found the end(ing) of the film very moving. – Brian Donovan Jun 20 '14 at 21:38
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Ending is most frequently a reference to a period or space immediately before the terminus, and it normally refers to a creative work. One would rarely hear, "the ending of the road", but one can hear both, "the end of the book" and "the ending of the book."

For that matter, when one says, "I did not like the ending of the book," they are most likely referring to specific plot elements which happened just as they were about to finish reading the book, as opposed to if they say, "I did not like the end of the book," which would mean that they did not like the way the book progressed to completion.

To try to use both:

I did not like the end of the Harry Potter series: I think that Rowling did not manage to hold together the plot well and the preaching about love was trite. That said, I found the ending to be satisfactory: I liked seeing Harry as an adult with a child named {{spoiler}}.

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