Let's say I am in my room, and the door bell goes off.
Are these two expressions similar and have the same meaning? Is the second construct correct?

By the time I get to the door, my friend has already arrived at the door.

By the time I get to the door, my friend is already there.


By the time I get to the door is a reference to an expectation of something happening at a future time. He could not yet know the friend is there. But you could say

By the time I got to the door, my friend was already there.

This marks by the time as the time when he is at the door, not a time while going to the door.

As for already there, this is a completed action, so it should also be past tense.

You could say

By the time I get to the restaurant I will be hungry.

as this indicates a future expectation based on a point in time (at the restaurant).

Though it doesn't make great sense, you could say

By the time I get to the door, my friend will be hungry.


Did you open the door and see your friend standing there? Or are you trying to say that both of you (your friend and you) tried to get the door at the same time?

If your friend was the one knocking on the door, then you can say

When I opened the door, I saw my friend standing on the doorstep.

  • 1
    Although what you say is true, I don't think it's the correct meaning. The sentence in the original question seems to imply that both you and your friend were going to the door to open it for whoever was ringing the bell. – barbara beeton Apr 8 '13 at 20:19
  • @barbarabeeton I think it’s possible that both of them were trying to get to the door. What I understand from his sentence was that only one person was going to get the door. His friend was arriving at the door. – EnglishLearner Apr 8 '13 at 20:27
  • 1
    The fact that the bell rang implies that someone is already at the door (outside), and what is needed is for someone to open it. So yes, both of them were trying to get to the door, and it's most likely that both were on the inside. If the friend (who got there first) were on the outside, then I'd assume (perhaps rashly) that there were two people on the outside when I opened the door. – barbara beeton Apr 8 '13 at 20:34

They are both correct and mean the same thing. However, I think the second is more likely to be used as there is no need to specify 'the door' twice.

Update: Just to clarify the meaning of these sentences

As @user3169 has pointed out, 'my friend has already arrived' is a reference to something in the past. Therefore, you would usually use 'got'. There is nothing wrong with the way you have written it but it means that it happens on a regular basis. For example, every time you get to the door you friend is already there.

If this is what you are trying to say then it is perfect. Otherwise see what @user3169 has written.

  • 1
    There is one other circumstance in which this could be correct: a present-tense narrative. "I run to my car, and speed home through the streets, hoping to beat him; but by the time I get to the door, my friend is already there." – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 8 '13 at 23:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.