If somebody said to me, "I have to work until Friday", would that mean that he still had to work on Friday or would that mean that Friday was already his day off?


4 Answers 4


This is a really good question. Technically, you can't know for sure, because both situations (finished at the start of Friday, and finished at the end of Friday) could be described that way, and have been. In my (Western Europe) experience it's much more likely that Friday is included and not excluded. But if somebody said "we can party until Monday" you would certainly not expect a three-day weekend, right?

In practice, you can probably fill it in from context: i.e. you either know that your friend works Monday to Thursday only, OR you know that Mon-Fri is the normal Western work week.

Recently I've been wondering whether Friday night is a "weeknight". Go figure.

  • 7
    imo, to complicate matters, Friday is not a weeknight (although I'd more typically use the word "schoolnight", despite not having been in school for quite some time), but Sunday is
    – Tristan
    Mar 29 at 11:01
  • A school night or work night is typically one that precedes a day in which you attend school or go to work, while Friday could be a week night (for something that occurs each night Monday through Friday) or part of the weekend (time between getting off work Friday afternoon through going to bed Sunday evening) depending on context.
    – chepner
    Mar 29 at 19:16
  • I agree. Should identify a time or at least "the end of Friday" etc., despite my preference for British English I often use American-style "through" to emphasise continuity. Mar 30 at 6:21
  • OED on weeknight: "A weekday night; spec. (in early use) a night of the week other than Sunday night; (now usually) a night of the week other than Saturday or Sunday night (sometimes also excluding Friday night)"
    – equin0x80
    Apr 5 at 5:10

If you say "I have to work until 2:00:00 PM tomorrow.", you have identified an instant in time, and the statement is precise.

"Friday" describes a long span of time, so "I have to work until Friday." is not precise, and the meaning must be divined from context, or made more specific, as in these examples:

"I have to work until Friday at 5 PM. Then I will be free to party." or

"I have to work until Friday, so I can leave for Vegas on Saturday morning." or

  • 1
    This is the ISO standard interpretation. I think you are missing something by not considering how human beings are likely to read it.
    – equin0x80
    Mar 29 at 6:10
  • 2
    I think you may be missing a third example, or else have a trailing "or"
    – Tristan
    Mar 29 at 11:02

I disagree with the two answers above.

"I have to work until Friday" unequivocally includes at least some part of Friday.

You might be free at (say) midday on Friday, but you're not free all day.

Ditto with "we'll party until Monday": the expression implies that our partying will last at least into the small hours of Monday morning.

Just as "Lily will practice guitar until her fingers bleed" involves the future loss of at least small amount of blood.

In relation to "out of office" e-mails, the message "I will be out of the office until Friday, 22 October" explicitly says the author won't be in the office until at least some portion of Friday, 22 October has elapsed. However, it effectively implies that they'll arrive back in the office at some time during the working day (if not stated otherwise, the reader will probably infer that they'll be back at the normal time on Friday morning).

  • 1
    I'm not sure this is entirely right. In most cases I'd agree, but in the specific case where someone was describing a situation that ended at the exact moment when Thursday 11:59 PM ticked over to Friday 12:00 AM, I'd still find "until Friday" to be accurate. Not the most useful way to describe it, but I wouldn't hear it as wrong. I'd say it's less that "I have to work until Friday" unequivocally includes some part of Friday, and more that "I have to work until Friday" unequivocally includes all of Thursday. Mar 29 at 21:54
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    "Unequivocally includes some part of Friday". I know people who ar just a certain as you that it does NOT include Friday. I always ask for clarification.
    – Scottie H
    Mar 29 at 23:01
  • Definitely not right, at least by British usage. "I'm busy until the weekend" implies that I'm free during the weekend. Mar 30 at 6:18
  • 1
    What if there are three answers above yours? And if someone new posts another answer? You should be more specific.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 30 at 10:40
  • 1
    I can think of a few exceptions, like, "I have to work until Friday, when I finally get the day off." In that case, I'd assume the last day of work is Thursday, not Friday.
    – J.R.
    Mar 30 at 11:35

Funny enough, we have the same problem in Italian, with the expression "fino a..." that's similar to "until..."/"up to..."

One solution adopted (in Italian) has been to add a final "included" or "excluded" to make clear if the date/time mentioned (more often a specific day) is included or not. The final result would be like (forgive my literal translation, please) "I'll be on vacation until Friday, included": does this form make sense or look awkward in English?

  • 1
    Your literal translation sounds a bit unnatural to me, but we do use these words to clarify such situations. I'd probably word it something like this: I'll be on vacation up until and including Friday.
    – J.R.
    Mar 30 at 11:38

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