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Welcome to your “By” / “Until” lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• “By”
“By the time…”
Take the quizzes when you’re ready! If you’re having problems, use the comment box to contact our English Teachers.


“By + a time” means “not later than”:

“I sent a mail on Sunday, so they should reply by Monday.”

“We need to be quick, we need to be home by 9.”

“Where is Bob? He should be here by now.”


We use “until” to say how long a situation continues:

“We’ll wait until it stops raining before we go.”

“I was really lazy this morning, I didn’t get up until eleven a.m.”

Compare “until” and “by”:

Something continues until a time in the future: Something happens by a time in the future:

“She will be away until Friday.”
(so she’ll be back on Friday)

“I’ll be working until 3pm.”
(so I’ll stop working at 3pm)

“She will be back by Friday.”
(so she’ll be back no later than Friday)

“I’ll have finished my work by 3pm.”
(so I’ll finish work no later that 3pm)

“By the time…”

You can say “by the time something happens”:

“It’s too late to go to the shop. By the time we get there, it’ll be shut.”

By the time you read this postcard, I’ll be back home!”

By the time we get to the cinema, the film will have already started, hurry up!”

You can also say “by the time something happened”:

“My car broke down this morning. By the time I arrived, it was lunch time.”

“I had a lot to do yesterday. I was very tired by the time I finished.”

“The car park was full at the theatre. The show had already started by the time we arrived.”

You can also say “by then” or “by that time”:

“She arrived home at 7pm, by then (or “by that time”) dinner was ready.”

Useful links

The Future Continuous & The Future Perfect
Passive in Present Simple and Past Simple

“Preposition + Verb+ing”

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