"until" vs "before" or "to"

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Wed Jul 18 21:00:08 UTC 2007

my search for advice about to/before/till/until/of has turned up
nothing of great interest.

1.  in Chicago Manual of Style 15, there's no direction about
choosing a variant, though an example with "of" does occur on p. 391,
in a section on spelling out times of day:

He left the office at quarter of four.

[note the plain "quarter of" rather than "a quarter of".  i recognize
the variant without "a" -- Omit Needless Words! -- but i think i
almost always use an "a" in "quarter of/to/after/past/..."]

2.  the Collins Cobuild Manual of Style (1990) also gives some
examples in a discussion of clock times on p. 263 -- but only "five
minutes past one" is relevant here.  sections on the individual
prepositions don't mention the clock time uses.

3.  AHD4 gives clock time subsenses for "to" and "of" (glossed as
'before') but not for "till" or "until", and there's no attempt at
differentiating the words (something AHD4 often does for variants).

two dozen or so other sources, of various kinds, don't have anything
(that i can find).  i find this fascinating, given the preoccupation
that many of these sources have with advocating Only One Right Way.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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