What’s the difference between BY and UNTIL?
By is used with a time to mean – Not later than
“We should probably leave BY 8:00.” Not later than 8:00
Until is used to show how long something continues “Steve is out of the office UNTIL Thursday.” Steve comes back on Thursday. Before then he will continue to be out.
By Vs Until – Table of Contents
- By – By the time
- By vs Until
- By vs Until grammar
- By then vs Until then
- By vs Until quiz
- By vs Until infographic
By – By the time
By is a preposition used with a time to mean – Not later than; Before the time mentioned
- I ordered a new tablet PC last week so it should be here by Wednesday. – It should not come later than Wednesday.
- I like to be in bed by 10:30. I usually wake up at 5 a.m. – I try to be in bed no later than 10:30.
- This milk will be bad soon. We have to use it by the 16th, that’s tomorrow. – We should drink this milk no later than tomorrow.
- Neil should be here by now. – Neil should have arrived before now.
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries lists 16 ways to use the preposition BY – You can see them here: Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries – by
It’s common to hear expressions like BY THE TIME
- By the time I got to Frank’s house the game had already started. (Between the time I left and the time that I got to Frank’s house, the game had begun.)
- It’s early now but by the time we get to the mall the stores should be open. (Between now and the time we arrive at the mall, the stores should be open.)
- Tony’s dad was in the army. He had lived in five countries by the time he was 16.
We can also say by then if the time has been mentioned already.
- The game doesn’t start until 7:30, I should be home by then.
- I got to the party after 10:00, unfortunately by then, most of the other guests had already gone.
Until is a conjunction and a preposition that means – up to the point in time or the event mentioned
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries – until
- I have to work until 6:00. After that I can meet you at the restaurant. – I have to work up to 6:00.
- The store will be closed until further notice. – The store will be closed up to the point that notice is given. (someone tells us)
- His new contract with the team is good until 2028. – His new contract is good up to 2028.
UNTIL is often shortened to TILL in natural conversation.
- I have to work TILL 6:00.
- The offer is good TILL Friday.
By vs Until
|BY – happens before the time mentioned||UNTIL – continues up to the time mentioned|
|We need to leave BY 8:00. – We must leave before 8:00.||I have to work UNTIL 8:00. |
– I have to continue to work up to 8:00.
|I just ordered a pizza. It should be here BY 6:30. |
– The pizza should arrive before 6:30.
|We will order a pizza soon. I want to wait UNTIL everyone gets here. |
– I want to continue waiting up to the point that everyone has arrived.
By vs Until grammar
By and until will come before a noun, a noun phrase…
- We need to leave BY tomorrow. (Tomorrow is a noun in this sentence.)
- I just ordered a pizza. It should be here BY the time everyone gets here. (the time everyone gets here is a noun phrase.)
- I have to work UNTIL close. (close is used as a noun to mean the time when a store or restaurant closes business for the day.)
- We will order a pizza soon. I want to wait UNTIL everyone gets here. (everyone gets here is a noun phrase.)
…or an adverb.
- Neil should be here by now. (Now is an adverb)
- Omar’s girlfriend moved in last month. He had always lived alone until then. (Then is an adverb)
o’clock is an adverb
- I’ll try to be home by 6:00. (six o’clock)
- I usually work until 5:00. (five o’clock)
This grammar is good for any time of day, even if we don’t say “o’clock.”
- I’ll try to be home by 6:15. (six fifteen)
- I usually work until 5:30. (five thirty)
By then vs Until then
When BY and UNTIL are used with then, the grammar rules don’t change.
BY then = before then
UNTIL then = continuing up to then
The adverb THEN is used to refer to a particular time in the past or future
Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries – then
The particular time that THEN refers to will have already been mentioned in the previous sentence or clause.
This report is due on Friday. I hope I can finish it by then. (THEN = Friday)
Tomorrow is my last chance to buy the car at a discount. The special price is only available until then. (THEN = tomorrow)
This is the same for BY now and UNTIL now
by now – He should be home by now.
till now – I’ve lived at home till now.
By vs Until quiz
Answer these 8 BY or UNTIL questions and test your English!
A) The movie starts at 8:30 so we should probably leave by 8:00.
B) The movie starts at 8:30 so we should probably leave until 8:00.
A) This milk will be bad soon. We have to use it by the 16th, that’s in two days.
B) This milk will be bad soon. We have to use it until the 16th, that’s in two days.
A) The movie release has been delayed by next summer.
B) The movie release has been delayed until next summer.
A) I have to work by 6:00. After that, I can meet you at the restaurant.
B) I have to work until 6:00. After that, I can meet you at the restaurant.
A) I’ll meet you at the restaurant after work. I should finish everything here by 6:00.
B) I’ll meet you at the restaurant after work. I should finish everything here until 6:00.
A) Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I can sleep by 10:00.
B) Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I can sleep until 10:00.
By Vs. Until Quiz answer AUDIO
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By vs Until infographic
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