By the time I reached home, he had arrived.

Does this mean he was there when I reached home or it doesn't specify that and probably he may have left moments before my reaching home? It is only the context that may tell us what was true at the moment of my reaching there. He could have left also, but, 'by the time' does not say that. Am I right?

Does the following sentence make sense? Is it correct to use it this way?

By the time I went home, he had left for school, but had also arrived moments earlier than I reached home.

  • I've "corrected" your first example to give at least a credible way of using reached (although in practice almost every native speaker would prefer got over reached there anyway). But there's no easy way to make your final example sound natural without wholesale rephrasing. And although I've successfully used but twice already in this comment, it's not obvious to me it could really work in your context (what exactly are you contrasting with what?). – FumbleFingers Aug 10 '16 at 13:48
  • @Policewala I sincerely hope you take the time to read and understand StoneyB's very useful post on the perfect, since so many of your questions involve its use and meaning. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 10 '16 at 22:27

By the time I got home, he had arrived.

Your sentence provides three pieces of information.

Event 1: I got home
Event 2: he arrived
Timeline: 2 occurred before 1.

Without further information from the context, you cannot infer that he was there when you arrived: you cannot even infer that he arrived at your house- he could have arrived somewhere different.



By the time I reached home, he had arrived.

Means that you came home, and at that moment, he already had arrived somewhere. The implication is indeed that you found him at home, but he may have arrived somewhere else. There is nothing to make us believe that he left the place he arrived at again afterwards. It's possible, but there is nothing that tells us it is so.

If you want to say that, you need to do so explicitly:

By the time I reached home, he had already left.

This would mean you (just) missed him.

By the time I went home, he had left for school, but had also arrived moments earlier than I reached.

Here you are trying to put too much into one sentence, and actually it becomes unclear what you mean. It seems these four actions happend, in this order:

  • 1) He left for school.
  • 2) You went home.
  • 3) He arrived (at school?).
  • 4) You reached home.

It is not clear what the main point you want to make is. You could simply put this in two sentences:

By the time I went home, he had already left for school.
By the time I reached home, he had just arrived at school.

  • Sorry. Look at this, "By the time I got home, he had arrived there too." Does it say he was still present there, when I got there? Or is there a chance that he may left also before my arrival? – Policewala Aug 10 '16 at 14:44
  • @Policewala It doesn't really say anything about whether he was still there. He may have left. But most people will assume he was still there when you arrived, because most people will expect you to say that he had left again if you mean that he had left again. – oerkelens Aug 10 '16 at 15:05
  • Actually, yes, normally it will mean when I got home he was there too. If you want to say he came and left again before you arrived, you would say something like By the time I got home, he had left again, or He had come and gone by the time I got home, or I just missed him as I got home – oerkelens Aug 10 '16 at 15:08

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