English grammar tip: deadlines

Should you use the word BY or the word UNTIL in English to talk about deadlines? This week our English grammar tip has the answer.

In German, you use the word “bis”. But in English, “bis” has two translations: BY and UNTIL.

When do you use each word?

BY means “at the latest” and is the correct word to use with a deadline.

Some examples:

— We have to send the report by 3 June.

— It’s important to call by 12 noon.

— Please send it to me by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

UNTIL means “up through” and signals the end of an action or possibility.

Some examples:

— She worked until 10 p.m. in order to meet the deadline.

— The special offer is valid from now until 30 June.

— Until what time can we reach you tomorrow?

As English trainers, we often see people use UNTIL to talk about a deadline when they should use BY.

Our English grammar tip for deadlines: the next time you want to write or say UNTIL, ask yourself if you are talking about a deadline or the end of an action or possibility. If it’s a deadline, be sure to use BY.

Mindy Ehrhart Krull
About the author

Originally from the US, Mindy Ehrhart Krull holds a master's degree in journalism and has been teaching English and working as an author, editor and proofreader in Germany since 2008.

At DELS, she leads a team of several English trainers and language professionals.

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