# Understanding the meaning and usage of ‘until’

Which is the more common clause after the following sentence? A or B? (Or, are A and B equally common?)

Q1. She would have to wait until Wednesday,
A. so she will tell me the results on Wednesday.
B. so she will tell me the results on Thursday.

Q2. He continued to practice as a vet until 1960,
A. and he changed his job in 1960.
B. and he changed his job in 1961.

Q3. I have to study until tomorrow,
A. so I can go to the movies with you tomorrow.
B. so I can go to the movies with you the day after tomorrow.

Q4. I will work here until next year,
A. so I can change my workplace next year.
B. so I can change my workplace the year after next.

Q5. I will stay here until next month,
A. so I can visit your country next month.
B. so I can visit your country the month after next.

Q6. Our office will be closed until the 5th of May,
A. and our office will reopen on the 5th of May.
B. and our office will reopen on the 6th of May.

Q7. Tom will be away until Monday,
A. so he’ll be back on Monday.
B. so he’ll be back on Tuesday.

Do you think all the seven questions have the same answer? If you think so, then, whether the same answer is A, B, or both of them, there is a consistency in the usage of ‘until’, which is easy to understand, I think.

Even if you don’t think all the questions have the same answer, it’s not a problem for me. As long as all of you give me the SAME RESULT (for example, if all of you insist that the answers to Q1~Q5 are B but the answers to Q6~Q7 are A), then the same consistent result verifies that there is a consistency in the usage of ‘until’.

However, if each of you have different opinion on the answers, and, as a result of that, there come several different results, this is a big problem for me because it’s really hard to understand the complicated usage of ‘until’.

• You are asking for a precision which doesn't exist. When until is followed by a period of time rather than a point of time, it is not specific whether or not the "until" lasts into, or even to the end of, that period. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 17:10
• @Colin Fine -- Your comment would make a good answer. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 17:15
• Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
– J.R.
Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 15:27

We won't have fresh strawberries available until Friday.

On Thursday we won't have fresh strawberries yet, but on Friday we will have them.

She would have to wait until Wednesday.

Her waiting will end on Wednesday.

Since we are speaking of days (which are a time-span of 24-hours), the precise moment is not specified.

But we can make until as a specific as its complement allows for.

The insurance policy is in effect until midnight of Jan 1st, 2017.

which would mean that the policy ends at the stroke of midnight.

Or as inspecific:

You can hold your breath until you're blue in the face, I'm not going to change my mind.

• +1 for the emboldened line; an excellent distillation of what the OP perceives as ambiguity. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 18:31
• Thanks, TRomano, for your detailed explanation and examples. Would you please take a look at my reply for Andrew?
– niue
Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 19:13
• @niue: If we say "Our offices will be closed until May 5th", it means that the closed state ends at some time on May 5th. It could be 8am on May 5th or 9AM or 10AM on May 5th. The complement, which is a date, does not itself indicate anything more specific than the date. We would assume that the office would open at its normal opening time on May 5th, absent anything to the contrary.
– TimR
Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 19:47
• If we say "He practiced medicine until 1960" it means that his practicing of medicine ended in 1960. He could have retired on January 1st or May15, or October 23rd. We don't know. The complement of until determines the precision or lack of precision. If the complement refers to a time-span, we're dealing with a span. If it refers to a point-in-time, we're dealing with a precise cutoff. It it refers to a binary state, we're dealing with a precise cutoff. If it refers to a gradient state ("till you're blue in the face"), we're dealing with a range, not a precise cutoff.
– TimR
Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 19:50
• @Sean Houlihane: Yes, he does, if he has read my answers and my comments upon the answer, which apparently you haven't. '"Our offices will be closed until May 5th", ... means that the closed state ends at some time on May 5th. It could be 8am on May 5th or 9AM or 10AM on May 5th. "
– TimR
Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 12:48

Colin Fine makes a valid point in the comments that the English use of "until" can sometimes be vague and open to interpretation. Consider your first example:

Q1. She would have to wait until Wednesday.

The implication is she will have to wait until some time on Wednesday. This could be 00:01 or it could be 23:59. Without additional context we don't know for sure, and if it was important, we would ask for clarification. For example, suppose I'm waiting on an important document and my source says "It'll have to wait until tomorrow". Does he mean tomorrow morning or tomorrow evening? I don't know, and I would ask.

Q2. He continued to practice as a vet until 1960.

Well, for starters this sentence is odd because a "vet" is usually someone who has retired from active military service -- plus, once a vet, always a vet. You don't stop being a vet. It's possible to be a "veteran" of a war or campaign while still on active duty, but this is less common. Also when we refer to someone with this kind of experience, we say "veteran" not "vet".

Anyway, back to the subject. Assuming you mean, "He served in the military until 1960," this means he retired some time in 1960. Could be January 1st, or it could be December 31st. In this case, it's probably not important since it was a while ago, but if I really wanted to know exactly when I would have to ask.

The rest of your examples are much the same.

Edit: "Vet" (meaning "veteran of military service") is American English. "Vet" can also mean "veterinarian" in both American and British English. If you meant "veterinarian" in your example, then please disregard that entire paragraph.

• In British usage, "a vet" means a veterinary practitioner, and "practice as a vet" is a completely normal expression. We simply don't have the meaning "vet" = "veteran". Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 18:12
• But I didn't use the word "veterinarian" in my comment, because that is a word I have never ever heard in the UK. It is another American word. We say "vet" or if necessary "veterinary surgeon/doctor/practitioner" ;-) Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 18:19
• @ColinFine Well now I'm just digging myself in deeper. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 18:21
• The answer seems strangely concerned with the derivation and use of the term "vet," when this is not remotely germane to the question. Why not just lop all that off, or replace He continued to practice as a vet... with He continued to practice as a flautist...? Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 19:22
• @ColinFine Years of compulsively watching All Creatures and travels to GB, and until this moment I never noticed that veterinarian is a USAianism. Even OED makes no note of this, and quotes British sources from the 19th century; this looks like an example of the US serving as a kind of museum of deprecated British usages. Commented Oct 3, 2016 at 21:00