What should I write?

What time does it [a restaurant] close?

Not after/until midnight. You have plenty of time.

Should I use after or until in the first sentence of the reply?

Here's the context: I've just asked for directions to the restaurant. After I've been told the directions, I say:

Thanks! What time does it close?

The answer will be:

Not after/until midnight. You have plenty of time.

(This was taken from an English textbook.)

  • What do you want to express? Not after midnight and Not until midnight don't even mean the same thing. – user Dec 8 '14 at 12:19
  • This question will probably be answered after you add some context and not until then. – Joe Dark Dec 8 '14 at 12:21
  • @MichaelKjörling question is about a restaurant opening time – Mohammad Dec 8 '14 at 12:22
  • Opening time? Or closing time? Tell us when the restaurant opens and closes, and then we'll be able to explain the right way to say it. (And tell us by editing the question, not by adding another comment.) – J.R. Dec 8 '14 at 13:13
  • 1
    All the above notwithstanding, "not until midnight" is the answer that makes sense to the question. "Not after midnight" simply means that the restaurant is closing some time before midnight, and therefore doesn't answer the question...in any language. "Not until after midnight" also makes sense; in this case the responder is saying that he doesn't know when the restaurant closes, but knows that it is open at least until midnight. – BobRodes Dec 9 '14 at 4:08

So you have two choices:

Not after midnight.
Not until midnight.

After: later than something; following something in time
Until : up to the point in time or the event mentioned

If you say "Not after", you are saying that the restaurant doesn't close later than midnight. It could close any time before midnight, so you haven't answered the question "What time does the restaurant close?". You have said when it doesn't close.

If you say "Not until", you are saying that the restaurant doesn't close up to the time of midnight, then at midnight, it closes. That does answer the question "What time does the restaurant close?".

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  • now in my question what answer is true? – Mohammad Dec 8 '14 at 14:35
  • Colleen - I've edited the question; you might want to update your answer now that the context is more clear. Surely until is the "right" answer, but I like how you've explained it, because after could be used in other situations. Yet another possibility is "Not until after midnight," meaning, "I'm not sure when it closes, but I know it'll still be open at midnight." – J.R. Dec 8 '14 at 16:44
  • @J.R Thanks for interpreting the image. I'm on my mobile, and want to explain why I limited myself to the exact question in the book, but my phone's auto correct hates me. I'll tackle it in a while. – ColleenV Dec 8 '14 at 17:21
  • To stretch the point, there is the possibility it may close sometime between midnight & 1am, depending on how busy it is, which would give us the option of "Not before midnight." – gone fishin' again. Dec 8 '14 at 19:21
  • There are many ways to answer the question "When does it close?" which is why I decided to stick to the choices in the exercise. I assume the lesson that precedes it attempts to teach some specific concepts and didn't want to muddy the waters until more explanation was asked for. My preference when I'm learning something new is to not be overwhelmed with too much before I feel comfortable with the concept at hand. – ColleenV Dec 8 '14 at 19:54

Ditto ColleenV, but one other point:

If someone says "not after midnight" (or whatever time -- "not after dawn", "not after 9:00", "not after Fred gets back", etc) that means that some event does not happen at a time following the specified time. Usually this is used to describe some on-going event, and not a one-time event like closing. Like if someone asked, "Is there a lot of traffic on First Street?", someone might reply "Not after midnight", meaning, there may be a lot of traffic before midnight, but not after. That answer would be meaningful if the person answering had reason to believe that the asker is particularly interested in traffic after midnight, and so he wants to make clear that while you might see a lot of traffic if you go there earlier, you won't see so much after midnight. It wouldn't be a helpful response if the person is thinking about driving on that street at noon.

Normally if someone asks when a business closes, you tell them the time. Like, "When does this restaurant close?" "At nine p.m." You might use a phrase like "not after midnight" if you were unsure about the time. Like, "Hey, what time does this restaurant close? I was hoping to stay here until my friend Bob can pick me up, but that won't be until 2:00 am." "Oh, I'm pretty sure this place doesn't close after midnight. Maybe 10 or 11 pm." But even that would be a strained wording. You'd me more likely to say "I'm pretty sure it closes before midnight". You say when it is, not when it isn't.

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Midnight is a precise time - it is one minute after 11:59pm - it is 12:00am "the next day."

As such, your response should be:

"You have plenty of time. The restaurants closes at midnight."

If the restaurant closes after midnight, then the doors shut at 12:01am or later.

Colloquially, I would also say: "The restaurant doesn't close until midnight" - but note there the focus is on the time before midnight, not midnight itself. I would also say, the restaurant doesn't close until 11pm.

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