I have heard I should not use "by the time" together with the simple present or simple past tense, but with the perfect tense or progressive. But I have doubted maybe the following sentence could be possible.
My store is closed by the time I arrive.
The store is not open by the time I arrive.
The post office does not start/begin by the time he arrives.
The park will remain the same by the time we don't give up protecting it.
The land stayed in peace by the time they arrived.
I would like to know if the sentences above could be possible. Do I have to use the perfect tense for all cases?
Many thanks in advance.
Last edited by youngbut; 07-Nov-2012 at 09:22.
When I think about your advice, I guess I don't catch the concept of "by the time" still. I just thought by the time means before.
I guess "By" means "beside", so "by the time" means ""beside the time" or "just in front of the time", that is "before the time".
However when I consider your comment, I'm wrong. I think the time notion implied by "by the time" does not exist in my first language, so I guess I'm more confused. Though I know it could bother you and take more your time, could you give me more explanation? I can not get what it is "by the time" with the dictionaries.
Last edited by youngbut; 08-Nov-2012 at 01:40.
The store had closed by the time I arrived.
This is a natural sentence- it means that you arrived too late.
The store has closed by the time I arrive.
This is less natural, but implies that you habitually arrive too late.
Why don't you think of it as a phrase, rather than try to break it down? By has a number of meanings- if you say that something was made by hand, do you seriously interpret it as meaning beside hand? By the time is a phrase. Its meaning, therefore, comes from the words together. I think you may be 'over-grammarizing' and over-analysing things- you could spend a while analysing I'll eat my hat from a grammatical perspective, but simply looking it up in an idiom dictionary would solve the problem- puzzling about how it is constructed from the individual words may lead to a nervous breakdown. Language is about generating meaning, so accepting that certain phrases simply have a meaning would make your life easier.I guess "By" means "beside", so "by the time" means ""beside the time" or "just in front of the time", that is "before the time".
If you want to worry about the meaning of by here, then think how by can be used to set time limits (by eleven o'clock). That would give the idea of before. You could also use when instead.
Thank you for your advice.
I totally agree with you. Only what I want to know is what "by the time" is as a phrase as you said. However, if 'by the time' were 'when' or 'by' according to your advice, would "My store is closed by the time I arrive." means "My store is closed when I arrive"? However, according to Bhaishab's advice, 'My store is closed by the time I arrive.' is wrong. You also corrected the sentence into the perfect tense. If 'by the time' were 'when', 'The store is closed when I arrive' also would be wrong. Is it wrong?
From your advice I can realize 'by the time' is not 'before'. So, what is it as a phrase? What I want to know is just what 'by the time' means as a phrase.
I'm afraid my stupid question will bother you, but I'm sure this is the way we learn as you said once. No answer, no gain.^^
You could come up with contexts where your sentence is possible. Let's say you're walking to the store and talking on your phone to a friend, you could say I bet my store is closed by the time I arrive. Most people would say I bet my store has closed by the time I arrive. Many BrE speakers, though this is different from most AmE speakers I believe, could say I bet my store will have closed by the time I arrive. Why not follow the conventional patterns? I'm not going to say it's wrong because you can create contexts where it would be possible, but taking an established pattern and trying to force it into different patterns is ultimately a pis aller. By the time establishes limits and the perfect aspect shows completion, so they go together. That doesn't mean you can't dream up alternatives that could work in specific contexts.
As for the meaning of by the time, it is like when with a greater focus on time- if you're racing against the clock, you're more likely to use it. If you are walking fast and hope you're wrong and the store hasn't closed, use it. Of course, if it is closed, then it happened before you got there, but at the time of rushing there, that's not what you're thinking about. It's late, you're hungry and have no food in the fridge so you're really worried about whether it will still be open when you get there- you hope it will be open by the time you get there.