Grammar lesson: By, Until, With

Mini grammar lesson: How to use By, Until, With.

Sometimes students make simple grammar mistakes when speaking or in the essay writing part of the test. IELTS examiners mark you on the accuracy of your grammar in the speaking and writing sections of the test..  I will sometimes post a mini grammar lesson on some grammar mistakes I have noticed over the years.

1. By and Until

Wrong Sentence: “I must hand in my report until 9 am on Monday.”
Right: “I must hand in my report by 9 am on Monday.”

Wrong “I think this party will finish until midnight.”
Right: “I think this party will finish by midnight.”

Often students use ‘until’ when they mean ‘by’. Use ‘by’ when there is a deadline. The first right example above means you must hand in your report any time before 9am on Monday. The second right example above means you think the party will finish before midnight.

We use ‘until’ when the activity or event in progress is going to continue to a future point. See examples below.

Wrong: “Today, I have to work by 6 pm.”
Right: “Today, I have to work until 6 pm.”

Wrong: “I think this party will go on by midnight.”
Right: “I think this party will go on until midnight.”

The verb you use is very important. Some verbs match with ‘by’, some verbs match with ‘until’. Compare the Right examples above. The verb ‘finish’ is impossible to use with ‘until’. and the verb ‘go on’ (meaning ‘continue’) is impossible to use with ‘by’.

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2. By and With

Wrong: “The boy broke the window by his soccer ball.”
Right: “The boy broke the window with his soccer ball.”

Wrong: “He bought a new car by his own money.”
Right: “He bought a new car with his own money.”

Wrong: “She opened the door by her key.”
Right: “She opened the door with her key.”

When talking about a method of doing something involving an object or tool we use ‘with’ not ‘by’.

Examples :
I opened the bottle with a corkscrew
He fixed the bicycle with a spanner
You need to open a laptop with a special screwdriver


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