Until vs Unless
Since Until and Unless are two words in the English language that are often confused especially when they are spoken, it is necessary to know the difference between Until and Unless. This is due to the lack of proper understanding of the meaning and the usage of the two words by the individual. Until is used both as a preposition and a conjunction. On the other hand, unless is only used as a conjunction. Until has its origins in Middle English. Until comes from the Old Norse word und. Unless, on the contrary, has its origins in Late Middle English.
What does Unless mean?
Unless is used very often instead of if not as in the following sentence.
The tour will commence from tomorrow unless I phone.
In the sentence, you can see that the word unless is used in the sense of if not. It is understood that the tour will commence from tomorrow if I do not phone.
Sometimes unless is used in the sense of impossibility as in the sentence given below.
I will reach New York tomorrow unless there is a plane strike.
“The possibility of a plane strike tomorrow is almost not there. Therefore, I will reach New York tomorrow.” This is the meaning you are likely to get from the usage of the word unless.
What does Until mean?
The word until, on the other hand, is used almost like the word till. It is also interesting to note that the two words until and till are used almost in the same way. Until is used both in the conversational and the formal styles. Observe the two sentences:
I will wait until I hear from you.
I will not expect you for the dinner until about midnight.
In both the sentences, the word until is used in the conversational and formal styles. You can also find that the word is used as a substitute for till. You may observe that both the sentences mentioned above can look good with the usage of the word till too. If we replace until in these sentences with till the result would be as follows.
I will wait till I hear from you.
I will not expect you for the dinner till about midnight.
See the meaning has not much changed by substituting till for until.
Sometimes until is used in the sense of time up to as in the following sentence.
He is usually in his office until 5’o clock in the evening.
What is the difference between Until and Unless?
• Unless is used very often instead of if not.
• Sometimes unless is used in the sense of impossibility.
• The word until, on the other hand, is used almost like the word till.
• Until is used both in the conversational and the formal styles.
• Sometimes until is used in the sense of time up to.
One should understand these differences that exist between until and unless and use them appropriately according to the context.