IELTS Prepositions: By, Until, With

IELTS grammar: 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. Grammar makes up 25% of your marks in writing and speaking.

I advise focusing on accuracy when writing and speaking because even if you have a wide range of grammar if it is used incorrectly you will lose marks.  Below is a short lesson on how to use the prepositions By, with, until.


1. By and Until

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

Wrong:  This meeting will finish until 11 am
Right:    This meeting will finish by 11 am.

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 9 am on Monday. The second right example above means the meeting will finish before 11 am.

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 meeting will go on by 11 am.
Right:    I think this meeting will go on until 11 am.

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’ can’t be used with ‘until’. and the verb ‘go on’ (meaning ‘continue’) can’t be used with ‘by’.


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 the back of the computer with a special screwdriver.


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