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Are both "stay late" and "stay until late" correct and do both have the same meaning? I usually hear/read only the first one. Example:

  • I am going to stay late in the office today.
  • I am going to stay until late in the office today.
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Let's look at the definition of "late":


(1a): coming or remaining after the due, usual, or proper time
a late spring
was late for class
(2a): of, relating to, or imposed because of tardiness
had to pay a late fee
(1b): of or relating to an advanced stage in point of time or development : occurring near the end of a period of time or series
the late Middle Ages
(2b): far advanced toward the close of the day or night
late hours

These two phrases, despite being similar, are actually using different definitions of "late".

The first one, "stay late" is the first definition, which is referring to something being after a usual time. It's relative to the speaker, not tied to any particular or specific time.

The second, "until late" is using the second definition, which is referring to a specific later part of a time period, in this case a day. It's common in English to say "late in the evening" to refer to the last few hours of the day (i.e. 9:00 P.M. through 11:59 P.M.).

In other words, by saying you will "stay late" you're only saying you're going to be staying past the time you would normally leave. This could be at any point in the day depending on what is normal for you. So if you use the "stay late" version you're relying on context to fill in the specifics (such as when you normally leave and what would be considered "late"), that the person you're speaking to would already know. As an example, if you normally go home at 3:00 P.M., then leaving at 4:00 P.M. would be considered "staying late", even though this would not be considered "late hours".

If you use the second form, "until late" or "until late at night", you're specifically talking about working until the evening, or "late hours" when most businesses are closed.

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The first, "stay late in the office today", is correct. The second form, with "until", would be correct as "stay until late in the evening today". In the second form, "late" attaches to "until late" rather than the first form, where "late" attaches to "in the office". I'm not sure how to express that as a rule, but that's how US English handles it.

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