Unit 111. By and until By the time…
By (+ a time) =
not later than:
I mailed the letter today, so they should receive it by Monday. (= on or before Monday, on Monday at the latest)
We’d better hurry. We have to be home by 5 o’clock (= at or before 5 o’clock, at 5 o’clock at the latest)
Where’s Ann? She should be here by now. (= now or before now; so she should have already arrived)
You cannot use until with this meaning: Tell me by Friday whether or not you can come to the party.
(not Tell me until Friday)
We use until (or till) to say how long a situation continues: “Shall we go now?” “No, let’s wait until (or till) it stops raining.”
I was tired this morning, so I stayed in bed until half past ten.
Compare until and by in these sentences: Sue will be away until Monday, (so she’ll come back on Monday)
Sue will be back by Monday. (= she’ll be back on or before Monday, on Monday at the latest)
I’ll be working until 11 o’clock, (so I’ll stop working at 11 o’clock)
I’ll have finished my work by 11 o’clock (= I’ll finish my work at or before 11 o’clock, at 11 o’clock at the latest)
It’s not worth going shopping now. By the time we get to the stores, they will be closed. (= they will close between now and the time we get there)
You can also say by the time (something happens),…. Study these examples carefully:
(from a letter) I’m flying to the United States this evening. So by the time you receive this letter, I’ll probably be in New York. (= I will arrive in New York between now and the time you receive this letter.)
When you are talking about the past, you can use By the time (something happened),…
Tom’s car broke down on the way to the party last night. By the time he arrived, most of the guests had left. (= It took him a long time to get to the party and most of the guests left during this time.)
I had a lot of work to do yesterday evening. By the time I finished, I was very tired. (= It took me a long time to do the work and I became more and more tired during this time.)
It took them a long time to find a place to park their car. By the time they got to the theater, the play had already started.
You can also use by then or by that time: Tom finally arrived at the party at midnight. But by then (or by that time), most of the guests had left.