He was almost unknown outside his field until/before last year.

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Bob8964

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi, here is a sentence I got from Longman English Grammar about "until":

He was almost unknown outside his field until last year.

I wonder if the sentence means that the man became known last year. And I also wonder if we can use "before" instead of "until" without changing the mean, i.e.:

He was almost unknown outside his field before last year.
 
  • exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    There's nothing wrong with the ...before last year version, the ...until last year version sounds better, but I'd be more likely to write...until a year ago.
     

    Winstanley808

    Banned
    English - U.S.
    Both of you are correct grammatically, but be aware that "until a year ago" doesn't mean the same as "until last year".
    Today is (where I am and in the date format that I have been using lo these 60+ years) June 23, 2015.

    "Until last year": Until some time in 2014; the situation might have changed on January 1, 2014, on December 31, 2014, or on any of the 363 days in between.

    "Until a year ago": Until June 23, 2014.

    While Parla is correct in theory, not all writers are precise about which they use, the exact date of the change might not be known to the writer or it might have occurred gradually, and "until a year ago" could easily be used for any time in June 2014 even by a precise writer. There are situations in which it is important to use the correct one, especially in asking questions for which the respondent might have a precise date.
     

    Bob8964

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    What I want to know is the difference between "until" and "before". Please help to check if my interpretation is correct:

    1. He was almost unknown outside his field until last year.

    #1 means that the time when the man became known is last year

    2. He was almost unknown outside his field before last year.

    #2 means the time is last year or later.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    1. He was almost unknown outside his field until last year.
    #1 means that the time when the man became known is last year
    2. He was almost unknown outside his field before last year.
    #2 means the time is last year or later.
    No, they both mean it was last year that he became known outside his field.
     
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