Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

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.

Do your best to take a risk and go for Connection when you have a conversation!

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