Through vs. To/Until in English

Through vs. To/Until in English

When talking about a period of time or a time limit in English, when do we use Through and when do we use To or Until? And what is the difference between these prepositions, if any?

First, let’s look at them separately:

Through

In North America, through means up to and including (a particular point in an ordered sequence), (from …) to … inclusive.

“They will be in town from March 1st through April 8th”

“The exhibition is open Friday through Sunday”

To/Until

These two sentences mean the same thing:

“We lived in Haiti from 2000 to 2009.”

“We lived in Haiti from 2000 until 2009.”

They both refer to a period of time that began at some point in the year 2000 (we don’t know exactly what point) and ended in the year 2009 (again, we don’t know at exactly what point in that year).

Some native speakers of English report that “from 2000 to 2009” sounds slightly more natural to them than “from 2000 until 2009,” so it might be a better choice if you are trying to choose between the two forms. However, both forms are correct and acceptable – there is no wrong choice.

Now, let’s look at the differences between them:

Through vs. To/Until

If you say “We lived in Haiti from 2000 through 2009,” this is different. “Through 2009” means until the end of that year. Therefore, “from 2000 through 2009” refers to a time period that began sometime in the year 2000 and lasted until the very end of 2009.

Take a look at these sentences:

I work here from 9 to 5.
I work here from 9 until/till 5.
I work here from 9 through 5.

The last one is not common because it’s a little ambiguous. Through generally means until the end of, which is not the intended meaning here. For example, if you were to say, “I’ll be working at this company through May,” it would mean until the end of May.

How about these sentences:

I work here from Monday to Friday.
I work here Monday through Friday. (note that “from” is absent here)
I work here from Monday until/till Friday.

“Monday to Friday” is very common. Until/till may signify you’re leaving work for some reason on Friday. For example, if you say, “I’ll be in Paris till Friday,” you’d be marking a departure date.

Sometimes through and until can be used together as in the following example:

“I struggle through until payday.” Through here means continuing in time toward completion of (a process or period).

Synonyms of through in this particular context: the whole time, all the time, from start to finish, without a break, without an interruption, uninterrupted, nonstop, continuously, constantly, throughout

Until marks a time limit that is not included in the activity we are talking about. In other words, “I struggle the whole time before payday, on payday I don’t struggle any longer”.

QUIZ

Fill in with the correct preposition:

  1. The museum can be visited Tuesday __________ Sunday.
  2. The Post Office is open from 8am __________ 5pm.
  3. I ate ____________ my lunch break.
  4. I am free from 3pm ___________ 5pm.

ANSWERS

  1. through; 2. to or until/till; 3. through; 4. to or until/till

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