As in "The sun doesn't rise until after dawn." Would the meaning of the sentence be changed if we used until?
I found on a website that 'After' is just an intensifier or clarifier.

  • "In fact, I did not spend another moment alone in her company until after Katie Whittaker’s death, and then I had no choice." – Zhang Dec 4 '19 at 5:10

The meaning of until changes if the time being referenced is a period of time. For instance, compare: "wait until tomorrow" with "wait until after tomorrow". This is because a period of time is defined by two events: its beginning and end. And "until" works in such a way that "until tomorrow" is referenced the start of tomorrow, while "after tomorrow" is referenced to tomorrow's end.

The meaning of until does not change if a single precise event is referenced, rather than a range of time. The reason is that "X not until Y" implies that event Y happens first, and then X. And that is exactly the same as X happening after Y; i.e. not until after Y. Similarly, the positive version "X until Y" implies that event Y cancels X. But event Y has to occur first, causing the cancellation of X. In other words, the cancellation of X takes place after event Y. The implicit causality makes "after" redundant.

For instance, "wait until the light turns green" isn't meaningfully different from "wait until after the light turns green". Canceling the wait, and proceeding through the intersection is triggered by seeing the green light, and seeing the green light takes place after it turns green. It is plausible that "after" serves as an intensifier, such that "wait until after the light turns green" emphasizes the need to wait properly and not move before the change. Also consider a sentence like, "In a bankruptcy, unsecured creditors don't get paid until after the preferred creditors, if at all". The "after" here seems to be quite necessary, not only for emphasis but because the unsecured creditors getting paid is not caused by or triggered by the preferred creditors getting paid. There is a due process external to both of them which imposes an order.

About dawn, it is an extended event, like "tomorrow". Dawn does not begin when the sun comes up; dawn ends at that point, which is called "sunrise".

|improve this answer|||||
  • Doesn't dawn implicitly mean "after dawn"? And how is it an extended event? Is there any such thing as "beginning of dawn"? I think it's a point in time, not an extended event. Dawn- the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise. – Sandeep D Apr 29 '14 at 5:51
  • 1
    Dawn doesn't have a precise beginning, but it isn't a point in time. It's a situation of morning light before the sun is seen. If you are to wait until dawn, it is not precisely clear how long you should wait, but waiting until sunrise is too late. – Kaz Apr 29 '14 at 5:54
  • Oh yes! I misunderstood dawn for "first appearance of rays of sun" but in actual it means the "first appearance of light"which is a prolonged event. Other than this confusion, I was under the impression that "until after" is used as a block, not "after dawn". Thanks! – Sandeep D Apr 29 '14 at 6:06
  • @SandeepDhamija People do use "dawn" as if it were an event. I think the phrase "dawn to dusk" is understood to mean something like from sunrise to sunset. Or when a good idea "dawns" on you, it means you have sudden insight, not one that comes slowly over an hour or two. – Kaz Apr 29 '14 at 17:59

Interesting example. When referring to an event that has duration -- that is not instantaneous -- such as dawn, normally "until" refers to the start of that event:

We will be frantically cleaning until the party.

Adding the "after" clarifies that the "until" refers to the end of that event:

We will be frantically cleaning until after the party.

In your example, what is being said is that the sun rising happens after dawn. (That is precisely correct: dawn ends when the first sliver of sun appears at the horizon.)

|improve this answer|||||
  • Why is dawn not instantaneous? Noun dawn means the first appearance of light. – Sandeep D Apr 29 '14 at 5:57
  • Because of the atmosphere which diffuses light. On the moon, dawn is instantaneous. – KCH Apr 29 '14 at 9:58
  • 2
    @Sandeep Dhamija, not according to wikipedia! (I actually checked this to be sure, because I was hazy on the details myself.) It tells us, "Dawn [...] is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise. It is recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, while the Sun itself is still below the horizon. Dawn should not be confused with sunrise, which is the moment when the leading edge of the Sun itself appears above the horizon." – Codeswitcher Apr 30 '14 at 2:42
  • 1
    I was confusing dawn with sunrise :D – Sandeep D Apr 30 '14 at 6:39

"The sun doesn't rise until after dawn" simply means, in my opinion, that
"The sun rises as soon as dawn begins"

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.