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He didn’t get married until he was well into his forties.

Does the sentence above imply he married in his mid or late forties or we don't know it because we don't have more context?

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    Well into his forties implies mid or late forties. Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 12:26
  • 2
    Did he get married in his mid or late forties?
    – gomadeng
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 12:28
  • 8
    @BEBYGONES - yes, he got married in his mid or late forties. Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 12:43
  • 7
    Didn't Until = Did When. As it is written we know he got married because the words didn't and until tell us. That combination of words can be thought of as did and when. If the sentence was worded, He remained unmarried into his late forties, we would not know for certain if he ever got married.
    – EllieK
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 16:26
  • 4
    @EllieK-Don'tsupporther You should post that as an answer.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 20:54

4 Answers 4

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The general structure

He didn't do X until Y

implies that when the condition Y occurred, he took the action X. Using "didn't ... until" additionally emphasizes that they didn't take the action at any time before Y; in the case of your example, this means it's his first marriage.

Note that this implication is generally only true when you're making a statement about the past. "don't do X until Y" can also be used in imperative or predictive statements, e.g.

Don't open the door until the paint is dry. (This doesn't mean you must open the door as soon as the paint dries.)

I won't go in until I get permission. (You may wait any amount of time after getting permission.)

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    Note that the cause of, or reason for, his getting married was not necessarily that he was well into his forties. Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 22:02
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Didn't Until => Did When.

As it is written we know he got married because the words didn't and until tell us that he did. That combination of words can be thought of as did and when.

If the sentence was worded, He remained unmarried into his late forties, we would not know for certain if he ever got married.

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    Pointing out the obverse is instructive.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 13:37
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    I would replace that = with , because the relationship doesn't hold ("He got married in his late forties" doesn't mean he hadn't married earlier). Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 14:39
  • Or change the "Did When" to "Did When (But Not Before)" Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 14:40
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Yes, that is the correct interpretation.

'until' implies that a condition must be satisfied. In this case the condition being that 'he was well into his forties'

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    The question isn't about the condition, I think it's about whether this also implies that he actually got married at that time.
    – Barmar
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 20:53
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I think a timeline may help:

His birth            40y             50y                              time
|---------//---------|----vvvvvvvvvvv|---------/later/------------------->
                          \ wedding /
status:single;   dating;        \married;              status:unknown.

He didn't get married [really, he didn't!]
                    until [when did that situation change?]
                          he was well into his forties.
                                [well into = significantly into]

He definitely got married a significant way through his forties, and his marital- (or relationship-) status changed to married at that point. We don't know what happened after that, but we can hope they lived happily ever after!

Extra vocabulary in context

The relationship status can be a bit complicated before and after marriage, because before marriage a person can be

  • single,
  • casually dating to meet many people,
  • in a committed (exclusive) relationship,
  • broken up [with someone] and therefore single again,
  • not looking [for a partner],
  • engaged [to be married to their partner in the future],
  • in a civil partnership (non-religious joining).

If the marriage does not work, the partners may become

  • separated (still married, but apart),
  • divorced (the marriage ended),
  • estranged [from their partner] (they don't see each other at all.)

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