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.

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3 Answers 3


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".

  • 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
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 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
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 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
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 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
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 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.)

  • Why is dawn not instantaneous? Noun dawn means the first appearance of light.
    – Sandeep D
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 5:57
  • Because of the atmosphere which diffuses light. On the moon, dawn is instantaneous.
    – KCH
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 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." Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 2:42
  • 1
    I was confusing dawn with sunrise :D
    – Sandeep D
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 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"

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