At the time vs at that time

Discussion in 'English Only' started by moodywop, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Are at the time and at that time always interchangeable? Can at that time refer to a sudden, unexpected event, like at that (precise) moment?

  2. el alabamiano Senior Member

    In my opinion, you understand it perfectly.
  3. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australian English
    I don't feel that the phrases are completely interchangeable. For example you say "At the time of Christ's birth". You don't say "At that time of Christ's birth". Also "At that time of year" not "at the time of year", unless you are going to continue the sentence as in "at the time of year he normally goes on holiday".
  4. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    American English, Palestinian Arabic
    Could you give example sentences in which you doubt their interchangeability?
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It is difficult to comment on what actually happened 2000 years ago because at that time there were no video phones to capture images of the event.
    I don't think at the time would work in that sentence.
  6. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Many thanks to you all for your replies. I realize now that I should have provided more context/examples as elroy has suggested.

    An American member in the Italian forum has just asked how to say "at the time" in Italian.

    We do have a word (allora) which can be used in all situations:

    (proprio allora - at that precise time) the police arrived

    (allora = back then? at the/that time? in those days?) I used to have long hair

    The film Gladiator is full of anachronisms. (Allora - At the/that time?) there were no.....

    However we also have words that can only be used in specific contexts so unless we are clear about the use of at the/that time we cannot be of much help to the forera who asked the question.

  7. marsius New Member

    'At that time' is been using by Americans and 'At the time' is for British people.
    I've got a friend from Britain and he told me about it. He's never used at that time in his life.
  8. Lackswords New Member

    A fragrant harbour
    Chinese (Dialect: Cantonese)
    A friend wrote me "I found the album just now and reviewed the picture taken in 2009. He was very lovely….."

    I am curious and want to ask her "Did you find him lovely at the time? ...".

    Kindly advise whether it is 'at the time' or 'at that time' or both will work. It seems to me that as a specific time - 2009 - was mentioned, 'at the time' could be used.

    Thank you.
  9. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    Your use of "at the time" is correct and very idiomatic.

    You are right: "at that time" would also work, but it wouldn't be quite as idiomatic, in my opinion.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2010
  10. Lackswords New Member

    A fragrant harbour
    Chinese (Dialect: Cantonese)
    Thank you. Just found the most probable meaning of 'idiomatic' here - "That's the way native speakers say it." :p

    And from there, I guess whether a specific time was mentioned is less crucial, i.e. I could also use 'at the time' even if my friend wrote "I ... reviewed the picture taken in the past ...".
  11. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    "At the time" doesn't have to refer to a specific time, but it should refer to a time or time period that has been described in some fashion.
    I saw the picture when I was young. At the time, I didn't realize how lovely he was.
    Later we were going to become good friends, though I didn't know it at the time. ​
    (It is not the topic of this thread, but usually we say we 'saw' or 'looked at' a picture. We say 'reviewed' when we mean that we evaluated a movie for other people. You could look up review in the dictionary to see whether that is the word you mean. If you have more questions about it, you should start another thread to ask.)
  12. Lackswords New Member

    A fragrant harbour
    Chinese (Dialect: Cantonese)
    Thanks a lot. I have replied my friend soon after your first reply, though at the time I didn't have an understanding as clear as I have now.
  13. SCotopaxi Member

    Spanish - Ecuador

    I have a question. Could I use "at the time" / "at that time" / "at this time" to refer to a future event?

    You can meet Mary next week. She will be in Madrid at the time. She will be in Madrid at that time. She will be in Madrid at this time.

    Thank you,
  14. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    I guess none of them are wrong, but "at the time" doesn't work very well in this context, at least not for me. "At that time" is probably my first choice.

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