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Is there a difference between these two expressions? Are they perfect synonyms?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

"To date" implies that the current state is unchanged from the previous state, while "until now" implies that it has just changed. For instance:

To date, the Foos have never won a game.

Would mean the Foos have not won a game.

Until now, the Foos never won a game.

Would mean that they just won their first game.

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Yes, this is an important distinction, which however is not obvious to non-native speakers; so you quite often see "until now" from a non-English writer that clearly does not have that intention. –  Colin Fine Nov 30 '10 at 17:20
    
It might be worth noting that "so far" is a synonym for "to date" in this context: "So far, the Foos have never won a game" also means that the Foos have not won a game. "To date" sounds much more formal to me than "so far"; I associate it with things like newspaper articles, technical reports, and diplomatic correspondence. –  Vectornaut Jun 12 at 10:38

Those expressions could have slightly different meanings especially when talking about finance.

Compare the statements

To date, the fund has grown 25% since the start of the year.

versus

Until now, the fund has grown 25% (since the start of the year?).

To date does a good job of conveying the process of tracking the progress. However, until now seems to imply that the fund's growth rate has changed, thus our second statement implicitly requires further elaboration. Besides, until now and since the start of the year don't go well together.

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I interpreted the second statement to mean "The fund has grown 25% per year since it was launched, but the growth rate has recently changed." –  finnw Dec 4 '10 at 6:13

When used adverbially before the whole sentence, they have not much difference in some cases. But "to date" can also be used as an adverbial phrase modifying a verb phrase when referring to the present day, while "until now" is not suitable. The Free Dictionary uses such an example:

How much have you accomplished to date? [correct]

*How much have you accomplished until now? [incorrect]

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