Home > My ideas > Prepositions annoy me until I die

Prepositions annoy me until I die

This time, let me explain some difference between ‘until’ and ‘by’. Actually, I made a mistake for the usages. This is an article for myself.

At first, I would like you to listen to this song. It is a famous song, ‘Now And Forever’.

Until the day the ocean doesn’t touch the sand, now and forever, I will be your man
(2:40 in the film)

How would you feel if the word ‘until’ in the lyrics were replaced with the word ‘by’? The day that the ocean doesn’t touch the sand never comes unless aliens attack the earth, nuclear bombs are dropped, or something beyond my imagination happens. It means that his love for her will last forever.

Then, how about the word ‘by’? Yes. The man will come to love her before the day or on the day. Then, when will the day come? Such a day, the day that the ocean doesn’t touch the sand, doesn’t come, won’t come. Doesn’t he love her?

The word ‘until’ is used to say that something is going on or will be going on to a particular time. The word ‘by’ is used to say that something happened or will happen before a certain time or no later than a certain time.

Let me show you examples.

a) I think I should be here until 9 o’clock.

b) I think I should be here by 9 o’clock.

In the sentence a), I am here right now and will leave at 9 o’clock. In the sentence b), I am somewhere and am coming to the place ‘here’. I guess 9 o’clock is going to be a specific time at which I am able to arrive. Maybe I can be here before 9 o’clock.

a) I will call my female friend until 11 in the evening.

b) I will call my female friend by 11 in the evening.

In the sentence a), maybe I am a stalker or something. I have decided to keep calling my female friend. I don’t know how many times I keep calling. Eleven o’clock is the time I am going to finish calling. In the sentence b), I might promise to call her, or I might think I am able to call her, before 11 o’clock or at 11 o’clock.

a) I will revise my draft again and again until the day.

b) I will revise my draft again and again by the day.

The sentence b) sounds strange. Actually, this was the sentence I wrote. I was supposed to say that I finished writing the draft for an essay and I needed revising it again and again. The day(when I show my essay to my friends) would be the day I finished revising. ‘until’ is appropriate, isn’t it?

Let me keep showing examples.

a) Until now, only limited stations have elevators.

b) By then, each elevator will be equipped in designated stations.

In Japan, the law for disabled people was established. I don’t know since when. Now that specific stations, like the ones which have steep stairs, have to have elevators. The limited stations used to have such facilities. ‘until now’ in the sentence a) might want to say ‘before the law came into effect’, and ‘by then’ in the sentence b) might want to say ‘the specific time which the law requires’.

a) I will study hard until I pass the test.

b1) I will pass the test by the end of December.
b2) I will pass the test until the end of December.

What would you think of three sentences? Writing this journal, I thought it would be good for English learners to convert a sentence to another and check it.

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Categories: My ideas
  1. November 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    By seems to have a set time. You know when something’s going to happen.

    Until there seems to be no set time.

    For your essay to your friends, “until” you finish revising can mean there’s no set date for a final revision. I’ll finish revising “by” can mean there’s a set time.

    And if there’s an effect you can say, By the time I finish revising I’ll be as old as . . .

    Until I finish revising I’ll be as old as . . .

    Did you know he wrote my favorite NSYNC song This I Promise You?

    • honeypotter
      November 9, 2010 at 10:55 pm

      Hi, girlgeum! 😀

      Yeaaaah, “I know this feeling won’t go away Till the day my life is through, This I promise you.” I should have introduced this lyric!

      ‘by’ is ‘a set time’ is good to understand. Thank you, girlgeum.

  2. November 9, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    The two sentences about revising your paper until/by the day don’t seem to make any sense. Maybe a better preposition for those would be completely different!

    Something to think about. 🙂

    • honeypotter
      November 10, 2010 at 1:40 am

      Hi, Jeri. 😀

      Both of? Other prepositions…Ummm, my shabby English…nothing comes to my mind, Jeri 😦 Maybe the word ‘the day’ might make the sentence ambiguous. How about ‘the deadline’ instead of ‘the day’?

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