Friday, September 20

Not Until




There are many Prepositions in English that are used to talk about time. The most basic and common of them are in, at, and on.



Other examples include for, since, before, after, during, by, and until.



Today we’re going to learn how to use the Preposition until inside a negative sentence. Or simply, how to combine “not” and “until.”  




If you’d like to review how to use the other Prepositions, please read:








Until (Positive Sentence)



Let’s have a quick review of the Preposition until. “Until” expresses a period of time that starts from one point in the past and continues to another point.



So if you combine “until” with a Verb inside a sentence, the meaning of the Verb will automatically become long.



For example,



She will work until midnight. (=Ok)

We slept until lunch time. (=OK)

Please wait until I come back. (=Ok)

They stayed until the policeman told them to go home. (=Ok)



In fact, this is the big difference between “until” and “by.” In the case of “by,” the action of the Verb happens only one time or at one point.


Ex.


I will pay you back by Sunday. ( = I will pay one time before Sunday or on Sunday)

We’ll go there by next week. ( = We will go next week or before next week)

Your car will be ready by 4 p.m. ( = Your car will have already been fixed at 4 p.m. or before 4 p.m.)



All the examples above are correct. As you can see, even though the time period of “by” is long, its action is not. The action doesn’t continue but happens only one time (pay, go, be ready etc).



On the other hand, if you use “until,” the action of the Verb will become continuous or extended.


Ex.


I will pay you back until Sunday. ( =X)

We’ll go there until next week. ( =X)

Your car will be ready until 4 p.m. ( =X)



According to the first sentence, if you combine “pay” and “until,” you will pay your friend many times – from now until Sunday.



In the second sentence, the action “go” is also repeated many times.



And in the last sentence, the car is ready now and it will continue to be ready until 4 p.m.



All the sentences above are wrong. Their meanings have become strange. This is because whenever you use “until,” the action of the Verb becomes long.




How to Fix It



If we really want to use the Prepositionuntil” inside our sentences above, we have to use different Verbs to make the meaning correct.



Again, here are our wrong sentences:



I will pay you back until Sunday. ( =X)

We’ll go there until next week. ( =X)

Your car will be ready until 4 p.m. ( =X)



You can change them this way:



I will borrow your money until Sunday. ( =Ok)

We’ll stay home until next week. (=Ok)

We will fix your car until 4 p.m. (=Ok)



Now our sentences are ok because we changed the Verbs. All the new Verbs have a long and continuing meaning. (borrow, stay, fix). They’re not short and quick.




Until (Negative Sentence)



Please take a look at our example sentences again:



I will borrow your money until Sunday. ( =Ok)

We’ll stay home until next week. (=Ok)

We will fix your car until 4 p.m. (=Ok)



The sentences above are grammatically right and acceptable. But they’re still not natural and they’re not exactly suitable for our situations.



There are other more natural sentences. Take a look:



I can’t pay you back until Sunday. ( =more natural)

We won’t go there until next week. ( = more natural)

Your car won’t be ready until 4 p.m. ( = more natural)



The technique that I am using is a combination of the negative (not) and the Preposition until.



I can’t pay you back + until Sunday.

We won’t go there + until next week.

Your car won’t be ready + until 4 p.m.



Not until” is a combo that is very common, useful, and natural. You can often hear native speakers using this expression.




Other Ways



There are other ways that we can use “not until.”



For example, imagine that you are in your company or in the office. The copier is busy because many employees need to use it.



image courtesy of stock.xchng


You also want to use the copier because you need to submit a report to your boss. If your co-worker asks you:



Q: When do you need to hand in that report?



You can say:



A: I need to hand in this report by tomorrow.( =Ok)



The answer above is correct and acceptable. But of course you can feel that your co-worker asked you because he also wants to use the copier. Maybe he needs to finish his report today and he needs to use the copier more than you do.



In this situation, it's better to use “not until.”



Q: When do you need to hand in your report?


A: I don’t need to hand in my report until tomorrow.



This answer sounds more natural in the situation. You can also add something:



Q: When do you need to hand in your report?


A: I don’t need to hand in my report until tomorrow. So you can go ahead and use the copier first.



Lastly, you can make your answer perfect by making it short:



Q: When do you need to hand in your report?


A: Not until tomorrow.




Now let’s have another example. Imagine that you are in the US. Your American friend tells you:



A: Oh, I really want to have a nice chat with you before you go. When are you supposed to go back to Japan?


B: ____________________.



What’s the best way to answer?



A: Oh, I really want to have a nice chat with you before you go. When are you supposed to go back to Japan?


B: I’m not going back until September 30th. ( =Ok)



Or,


B: Not until September 30th.



It’s also common to hear “not until” alone, not in a complete sentence.





Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !









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