1. It was not until his third match that Mendoza won.

  2. It was until his third match that Mendoza won.

What is the difference between two sentence?

  • As you can see from the answers, the second sentence is very strange. Although technically grammatical, it would normally not be phrased that way. Better phrasing would be Mendoza was winning until his third match. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 20 '19 at 16:59

The first sentence means that Mendoza lost his first two matches and then won his third match. The second sentence means that Mendoza won his first two matches, but lost the third. However, the second sentence would not be used by a native speaker.

It was not until X(time) that Y(event).

is a commonly used construction in English, and could be rephrased as

Z(subject) did not Y(verb phrase) until X(time). (e.g. - Mendoza did not win until his third match.)

However, your second sentence is a form that I have never seen used. I cannot quite get to the bottom of why this is, but one obvious point is that it can be easily rephrased to a more concise form:

Until his third match, Mendoza won.

Furthermore, to me, there should be a certain continuity to Y in

It was until X(time) that Y(state).

For example,

It was until his third match that Mendoza was unhappy.

This makes sense and may be used by native speakers. But winning a match is an event, rather than a continuous state, so I don't think "won" fits in this construction. However, I'm not sure why this is. Hopefully a linguist can enlighten us.

Edit: Looking back at the above sentence, It actually feels wrong to me as well. Perhaps my event vs. state dichotomy was imagined.

In any case, the simplified version would be preferable here. As in:

Mendoza was unhappy until his third match.

  • 2
    The "it was" structure is positive and therefore redundant for a positive statement, which is why it feels so awkward there. Also, putting the subject at the end is awkward as well (outside of poetry or highly narrative styles). In contrast, "it was not" is perfectly fine to use. You can see why if you examine your own early sections - "It was not" is simpler than the structure required to replace it. For your final example, I would still prefer "Mendoza was unhappy until his third match." – Jeutnarg Mar 20 '19 at 16:38
  • @Jeutnarg, looking again, I think you're right about my final example. It didn't seem wrong when I wrote it, but it does now. Shall I edit it out? – Tim Foster Mar 25 '19 at 12:28
  • 1
    I would leave the sentence as is but find a way to add the (simplified) version somewhere. Maybe as a second line for both the form and example, or as a note in the description? – Jeutnarg Mar 25 '19 at 13:16

Sentence 1 means Mendoza wins starting with his third match.

Sentence 2 does not make sense; it sounds very awkward.

Another way to rephrase #1 is "Mendoza did not win until his third match."

  • Can you help me delete 'not until' and 'that'? I want to see the ordinary sentence. – Y. zeng Mar 20 '19 at 14:15
  • 1
    Sentence 2 is certainly "awkward", but I'd say it's syntactically valid, and would mean Mendoza (consistently) won until his third match (with the implication that he lost the third match, his "winning streak" having ended). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 20 '19 at 14:23
  1. Mendoza did not won until his third match
  2. Mendoza won until his third match
  • Given the question is obviously from a non-native speaker, I think you should explicitly point out that no native speaker would actually use his version 2, even though strictly speaking it's syntactically valid, and has the same meaning as your perfectly natural rephrasing. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Mar 20 '19 at 14:28
  • 2
    The first is ungrammatical – Laurel Mar 20 '19 at 14:57

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