AEE 687: By Versus Until in English and Why Michelle Misses Japan

by versus until in English

Do you know how to use “by” versus “until” in real English conversations?

Maybe you have heard natives use these words but you are confused about how to integrate them into your sentences.

English prepositions like these ones can be tricky.

We will fix that problem today!


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By/until/by the time

When do we use these prepositions and phrases?

We use them when we’re talking about timing.

We use them when things coincide with each other, when something happened, or when two things happened in parallel.


#1) BY= end date, end day, deadline, something happens on or before

  • “I need the report by Friday.”
  • “Please have your dishes cleaned up by 3 pm”
  • “You need to be here by 7 because the guests are coming at 8 pm”


#2) BY THE TIME- just like “by” but is used when we don’t have a specific day, date, time

  • “I need the report by the time the workweek ends.”
  • “Please have your dishes cleaned up by the time the party starts.”
  • OR to emphasize a long, hard amount of time
    • “How did you feel by the time you got to Japan?” (this emphasizes that you had a long trip)
    • “I hiked the Inca trail last week for 4 days and by the time I got to Machu Picchu my muscles were killing me.”


#3) UNTIL- very different from “by”

  • Something lasts up to a certain point and we are highlighting that point
    • “We stayed in Peru until the 26th.”
    • “Every night we hiked until it got dark.”
    • “Michelle did you eat Japanese ramen until you got sick?”


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Please go out and try to use these prepositions.

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  • 1) I think about you by night and day .
    2) I’ll miss you by the time you leave .
    3) I love you until the end of the world .

  • Kazu Imamura

    Kon-nichiwa, Michelle and Lindsay!
    I am so glad that Michelle enjoyed traveling in Japan! Also, I am so happy that you called my name in your program since I wrote comments for AEE 672!.
    Thanks to you, I often enjoy your program in Japan, which is produced in the US, and Michelle traveled in Japan and Lindsay had lived in Japan before, and both of you talked about Japan in your program. It is a small world, isn’t it?
    I used to live in Osaka, which is the 2nd or 3rd largest city, and Kyoto, which had been the capital city of Japan for almost 1,100 years, and now sometimes go to our capital city Tokyo on business. Japan is a small country, but we have a lot of dialects and those three cities are very different in various ways.
    Anyway, if you have time, would you please talk about your experiences or what you felt in Japan in your program? Did you enjoy a Japanese style pub, izakaya, too? I am so curious about it.
    Thank you, both of you! Arigatou!
    Kazu Imamura (Living in Kobe, port city, 20 minutes by train from Osaka)