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The article is as follows

The new area code is scheduled to be put into service next September. From that time until the following July, there will be a "permissive dialing period" when callers can use either the old area code or the new area code.

After July, use of the new area code will be mandatory.

The question is "what is significant about July?"

a. Use of the new area code will be required.
b. July is not significant at all.

I'm not a native speaker and I'm so confused with the meaning of "until" and "after". So the new area code will become mandatory in July or August?

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From that time until the following July...

If it were through or after, it would mean the last date of of the "permissive period" would be on July 31.

However, until usually indicates any time before a specific time or action.

I will not go to bed until I finish my homework.

Here the specific time will be when you put down your homework and climb into bed.

In the given example, just saying until July is not specific enough to know which date is meant.
So the answer "a" is the best choice of the two given. To understand better, you would have to ask the phone company the exact date of the change.

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The problem with the sample text isn't whether "after" and "until" are inclusive or exclusive. It's that they are used as synonyms, when they are not.

When referring to a period of time, "after July" would imply "beginning August 1st" and be inclusive of the month of July, while "until July" would imply "through the end of June" and be exclusive of July.

The sample text would be more accurate if it read:

"The new area code is scheduled to be put into service next September. From that time until the following August, there will be a "permissive dialing period" when callers can use either the old area code or the new area code. After July, use of the new area code will be mandatory."

To answer the question apart from this poorly written sample, the words "after" and "until" can be either inclusive or exclusive, depending on context.

  • 1
    Your second paragraph has it the wrong way round. "After July" excludes that July (starting 1st August, as you correctly note). "Until July" includes July (ending 31st July). That is, unless they intended to say "Until July starts", which then excludes July. – Lawrence Sep 15 '16 at 2:19

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