Difference Between Till and Until (With Table)

English is one of the most widely spoken languages, but it is often perceived as a tricky language. It is rife with unusual grammatical and sentence-level patterns. What makes this language particularly confusing for English learners is the “part of speech”. Pivotal in giving meaning to a sentence, certain parts of speech are often misplaced. ‘Till’ and ‘Until’ are two parts of speech that have embroiled novice English speakers/learners for long.

Till vs Until

The difference between ‘till’ and ‘until’ is that ‘till’ made its first appearance in the Old English texts, while ‘until’ was used in Middle English texts and the frequency of its usage increased in the fourteenth century. ‘Till’ and ‘until’ are categorized as “part of speech” and are regarded as synonyms, but each word has a single variant meaning that differentiates one from the other.

‘Till’ is considered less formal in comparison to ‘until’, and is suitable to represent a duration of time. For example, “Rhea was studying from morning till night”. This sentence implies the duration for which Rhea was studying.

‘Until’ derives its meaning from its relation to the end as it is used to represent a specific period of time that bears a resultative message. For example, “Rhea studied from morning till night until she was too tired to remember the facts”. In this sentence, the word ‘till’ represents the duration of the study, ‘until’ has a stronger message and implies a consequence or a result. ‘Until’ may also be used as a condition. For instance, “You cannot bury Ross until he is actually dead”. In this sentence ‘until’ can be inferred as a condition.

Comparison Table Between Till and Until

Parameters of ComparisonTillUntil
Meaning‘Till’ means up to a point mentioned, indicating the duration‘Until’ means up to a specific period of time that either delivers a conditional or a resultative message
Earliest appearance in periods of English languageIn Old English texts and became common in the Early Middle English periodIn Middle English texts and became common in Modern and Present-day English
Stylistic nature of speechLess formalMore formal
Temporal analysis‘Till’ indicates a duration of time‘Until’ introduces a time period that ends at the beginning of another time
Used asNoun, Verb, and PrepositionConjunction and Preposition

What is Till?

‘Till’ was used in Old English texts written in the areas where locals conversed in the Northumbrian dialect, and it was equivalent to ‘to’. In Early Middle English, the placement of ‘till’ in a sentence shows that it acted as either a preposition or a subordinator.  

In Present-day English texts the appearance of ‘till’ has decreased relatively. This is because it is monosyllabic and is considered to be less impactful and assertive than ‘until’, thereby, making it lesser formal in nature.

On a diachronic evaluation of the words ‘till’ and ‘until’ it becomes evident that the original word in English was ‘till’, however, with the passage of time it acquired a variant form, ‘until’. Furthermore, in the later years ‘until’ was used as ‘til in a less formal conversation.

Many grammarians are of the opinion that ‘till’ is used more liberally in conversational English, whereas, ‘until’ is used in conversations, as well as, formal writings. It is also believed that ‘till’ has a more literary and poetic effect to it.

‘Till’ in a sentence portrays a durative value. For example, “Sandra won’t sleep till her work is over.” ‘Till’ in this sentence implies the duration for which Sandra will be working, instead of giving a specific point of time.

‘Till’ can be used in its noun, verb, or preposition form, in a sentence.

What is Until?

‘Until’ on the other hand, makes its appearance in the Middle English texts. Its usage increased in the fourteenth century but became more rampant in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. However, its frequency of usage dropped dramatically after the seventeenth century and remained so until the later Modern-day English and Present-day English language period.

At present, ‘until’ is vastly used by English speakers because it is in disyllabic form and tends to be more emphatic and rhythmic, in comparison to ‘till’. The fact that the usage of the word ‘until’ instead of ‘till’ helps in an impactful delivery, also makes it more formal in nature.

‘Until’, when used in a sentence is usually indicative of a specific period of time that stops with the commencement of another time. For instance, “Solita can’t play until she finishes her homework.” Here ‘until’ indicates two time periods, the first time period being the period during which Solita can’t play, and the second period is after the completion of her homework, following which she can play. The first time period ends with the commencement of the second time period, and ‘until’ acts as a dividing point between the two.

‘Until’ can only be used as a preposition or a conjunction.

Main Differences Between Till and Until

  1. While ‘till’ was used as early as in the texts of Old English, the term ‘until’ appeared in texts only during the Middle English language period.
  2. ‘Till’ is often used in conversations, whereas, ‘until’ is more common in formal writings and conversations.
  3. As a part of speech, ‘till’ can be used in its preposition, noun, or verb form, whereas, ‘until’ can be used only as a preposition or a conjunction.
  4. Where ‘till’ implies a durative value to its usage, ‘until’ indicates a time period that halts with the beginning of another time period.
  5. ‘Till’ being a monosyllable is less impactful. In contrast, ‘until’ being a disyllable gives more impact to the delivery of a sentence.

Conclusion

‘Till’ and ‘until’ are often used as synonyms but an in-depth analysis of the terms would delineate that the two terms differ in certain contexts. It is a common misconception that ‘until’ is the shortened version of ‘till’, but in actuality, while ‘till’ can be used as a preposition, noun, and a verb, ‘until’ is either a preposition or a conjunction. Therefore, the words should be used as per the context of the situation that is being expressed in the sentence.

References

  1. http://french.chass.utoronto.ca/as-sa/ASSA-No8/Vol3.No8.Tobin.pdf
  2. http://robfelty.com/design/archives/corpusconference/abstracts/abstract37.pdf
x
2D vs 3D