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what is the difference among the next four sentences?

Sentence 1. She didn't get married until she was 35.

Sentence 2. She got married until she was 35.

Sentence 3. She can't leave until she has finished.

Sentence 4. She can leave until she finishes.

  • 1
    #2 and #4 are invalid. #1 and #3 look to be syntactically the same to me (they're both fine). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 18 '16 at 16:30
  • #4 She can leave until she finishes (doing something, then she needs to come back) is fine. – Alan Carmack Apr 18 '16 at 16:43
  • @AlanCarmack: Even if you could make a case for #4 being grammatical in certain contexts, it's so "unusual" I think most native speakers would look for a different way of expressing the intended sense. I can only read the full context of 2 out of the 5 instances of I can leave until in Google Books, and neither of them match OP's context. On the other hand, there are nearly 10,000 instances of the "natural" negated version I can't leave until – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Apr 18 '16 at 17:05
  • I think AlanCarmack is refering to a case when someone says "she needs to come back when she has finished" doing whatever she is doing or going to do – Manuel Hernandez Apr 18 '16 at 17:30
  • @fumblefingers, I agree that there is a substantial bias in usage, which is reversed if you replace "leave" with "stay" (see Ngram). My point is that it is grammatically correct, it's just not particularly useful. books.google.com/ngrams/… – JavaLatte Apr 18 '16 at 17:53
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We use until about something that extends over a period of time up to some event.

Getting married is regarded as an instantaneous event, being married or not being married is something that extends over a period of time.

Sentence 1 is about not being married, which extends over a period of time, so you can use it with until.

Sentence 2 is about getting married, which is an event, so you can't use it with until.

leave (in the sense depart) is an event, but not leave (in the sense stay) is a state that can extend over a period of time so sentence 3 is valid but sentence 4 is not.

leave (in the sense leave alone) is valid over a period of time, so this is valid:

You can leave it until later

Your sentence 4 would be valid if used stay, which is valid over a period of time, rather than leave:

She can stay until she finishes

  • So can I say: "you can use the computer until you finish that game" meaning "you need to stop using the computer when you finish that game" – Manuel Hernandez Apr 18 '16 at 17:16
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    Certainly you can. It's grammatically correct, and the meaning is sensible. – JavaLatte Apr 18 '16 at 17:40
  • which one would be correct " she got married by her 35" or " she got married by she was 35" in order to mean she got married before she turned 35 – Mrt Apr 18 '16 at 18:08
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    @Mrt - Neither of those is grammatically correct. "She was married by 35" is how I would phrase it. – stangdon Apr 18 '16 at 18:20
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    @Mrt, remember, got married is the event. Like until, you can't use by with an event. You could say "she got married by a priest" or "she was married by 35" or "she was married by the age of 35", or "she got married before she was 35". – JavaLatte Apr 18 '16 at 18:27
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The first one means she was not married, but when she turned 35 she was married.

The second one means she was married, but when she turned 35 she was not.

Also the second one is not grammatically correct. You would say it like;

She was married until she was 35.

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