John wanted to go home but didn't want to wait for the bus, so he started to walk. After all, the wait wasn't worth it; by the time the bus would come, he would be home already.

Is this the right use of the tenses in this example of "by the time"? If not, which is the one(or ones)?

  • Are you asking if “would” is used correctly? What are your hesitations about this sentence as written?
    – Mixolydian
    Mar 26, 2019 at 13:37
  • yes, I mean would
    – Fra
    Mar 26, 2019 at 13:38

1 Answer 1


When we use "by" with a time it simply means that something will be done before that time.

For example:

I will have my homework done by 5 o'clock.

This means that your homework will be finished before that time.

In your example, it uses a comparative time and means that the time John expected to wait for a bus to arrive was greater than the time it would take him to walk home, so it was not worth his while waiting.

The tense is dictated by when the events you are comparing would occur. In your example, you already said that it "wasn't" worth waiting. As this is already the past tense the following sentence should read:

By the time the bus came, he would be home already.

Alternatively, if the rest of the narrative were in the present tense you could use the future tense for your statement in question:

It isn't worth waiting. By the time the bus comes I will be home.

  • I know what it means (I created the sentence). The question I posted is different
    – Fra
    Mar 26, 2019 at 13:45
  • 1
    @Fra Quite right, sorry. I've added to my answer. I was trying to establish the point about comparative times. You will see from my answer that the tense you are asking about hangs on what else you have said.
    – Astralbee
    Mar 26, 2019 at 15:43

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