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We talked until late

Is this sentence correct? It sounds strange to me but I'm not sure what's grammatically wrong about it.

What about this?

We talked into the night

This sounds better to me. But is there a simpler way to put this that has the same meaning?

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Sounds fine to me. –  Mitch Nov 27 '12 at 0:28
    
I'd interpret "We talked until late" to be an informal, shortened version of "We talked late into the night." –  J.R. Nov 27 '12 at 1:04
    
Any doubts on its grammaticality are misplaced. Non-Q. –  Kris Nov 27 '12 at 4:50
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2 Answers

OED late sense 3 - Of the time of day: at or till a late hour (first citation 1400).

So there's no reason to suppose "We talked until late" (or, for example, "Go to bed! It's late!") are in any way "shortened" or "informal" versions of something longer and more "grammatical".

I would just say that "We talked late" (without until) sounds slightly "odd" to me, but that's probably because I assume the talking started earlier, and continued until late. I see nothing unusual about "We ate late", because I assume it means we didn't start eating until late.

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The only question I might have – which is why I mentioned "shortened" and "informal" in my comment – is the use of the preposition. I have no problem with "We talked late," but I wondered if a proofreader might have a problem with "We talked until late" in formal writing. (Conversationally, it's fine.) –  J.R. Nov 27 '12 at 0:32
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The issue is that until normally takes a noun or noun phrase, and late is not a noun. It sounds fine to me, but it is at least unusual, because late needs to stand for a noun phrase here, like a late hour, or late at night. We ate late is different: then you simply have a predicative adjective, no suggestion of nouns (you can't eat a late hour). We ate late is similar to we came first, and perhaps to we talked late at night too. –  Cerberus Nov 27 '12 at 1:18
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@BillFranke: "Late at night" is to me an adverbial-phrase-turned-noun-phrase, because you can say, "late at night is not a good time". As to your "why can't it function as [a noun]", who said it couldn't? Not I. It obviously functions as one in the original sentence. I was just pointing out why it is unusual. –  Cerberus Nov 27 '12 at 10:12
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@Cerberus: In Chomsky's terms, a phrase (NP, VP, AdjP, AdvP) can consist of a single word. I think the terminology sometimes clouds the issue. Those terms are a convenience for linguists, not anything for the rest of us to hold onto. The important point is how a word or phrase or clause functions, not what part of speech it's called. And because the "adverb" pigeonhole is generally considered a garbage can by linguists, that calls the entire nomenclature into question. Most terms for POS can be justified, but some are in those categories just because God and linguists work in mysterious ways. –  user21497 Nov 27 '12 at 10:41
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@BillFranke: Yeah, of course every model has to be a simplification. It becomes a whole lot less problematic if you recognise that the lines between the categories are often blurred, and that word can be in several categories at once. A participle is an adjective externally and a verb internally, for instance. –  Cerberus Nov 27 '12 at 12:30
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The sentence We talked until late seems grammatical to me. I find 39 hits for until late followed by a period in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (450 million words). 24 are in fiction writings. Here are the first 20 hits for fiction.

1        N'T BE BACK UNTIL LATE .   3   
2        N'T BE IN UNTIL LATE . 2   
3        N'T BE HOME UNTIL LATE .   1   
4        WOULD NOT BE UNTIL LATE .  1   
5        WORK TO DO UNTIL LATE .    1   
6        TO GET AWAY UNTIL LATE .   1   
7        THEM WITH QUESTIONS UNTIL LATE .   1   
8        STUDIED ALONE , UNTIL LATE .   1   
9        STOPS COMING HOME UNTIL LATE . 1   
10       PLOT AGAINST ME UNTIL LATE .   1   
11       NOT COME HOME UNTIL LATE . 1   
12       NOT BE HOME UNTIL LATE .   1   
13       N'T GET DARK UNTIL LATE .  1   
14       N'T COME BACK UNTIL LATE . 1   
15       FROM THE LODGE UNTIL LATE .    1   
16       DID N'T LEAVE UNTIL LATE . 1   
17       CARDS OR BACK-GAMMON UNTIL LATE .  1   
18       AT THEIR OFFICE UNTIL LATE .   1   
19       AT MUG SHOTS UNTIL LATE .  1   
20       'LL BE GONE UNTIL LATE .   1

Here's an example with context:

Evenings he goes into the bedroom and shuts the door, comes out occasionally for soup or cheese. Finally he starts going to a coffee shop after he gets home, and then he stops coming home until late . She'll go to sleep after the news, and when she wakes up for work he's snoring on the other side of the bed.

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"... and then he stops coming home until late" is ambiguous. It would probably be better as "doesn't come home until late". –  user21497 Nov 27 '12 at 10:43
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