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"by", "before" and "until" for German Speakers.

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

A common problem that many German speakers have with English is with the words "by", "before" and "until". A typical error would be;

Remember; although the German word 'bis' an be translated to "by", "before" and "until" they cannot be used interchangeably.


"by" and "before" set out an end point that something will be done by. for example;

  • "Please submit your application by Tuesday". ("Bitte reichen Sie Ihre Bewerbung bis Dienstag ein").

  • "All overdue payments will have to be settled before the end of the month". ("Alle überfälligen Zahlungen müssen bis Ende des Monats beglichen sein").


"until" is used to show that an action will carry on until an end point.

  • "I need to work until 5pm". ("Ich muss bis 17 Uhr arbeiten").

  • "We'll be in the office until 7 p.m. tonight". ("Wir sind heute Abend bis 19 Uhr im Büro").

So, our sentence above should be "I will finish the report before next Tuesday".


Excercise: Complete the following sentences with "by", "before" or "until".

  1. I will send you an invoice __________ the end of the Month.

  2. We waited __________ 11:15 then started the meeting without him.

  3. You will need to carry on working on this project __________ it is finished.

  4. Please respond to this email __________ the end of the day.

  5. Our working from home policy will stay in place __________ further notice.

  6. Do you think the work will be finished __________ the weekend?

  7. We will continue to offer the old product __________ the new one is developed.


Answers:

  1. I will send you an invoice before/by the end of the Month.

  2. We waited until 11:15 then started the meeting without him.

  3. You will need to carry on working on this project until it is finished.

  4. Please respond to this email before/by the end of the day.

  5. Our working from home policy will stay in place until further notice.

  6. Do you think the work will be finished before/by the weekend?

  7. We will continue to offer the old product until the new one is developed.

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