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I know that "until now" indicates that something changed.

No messages have come until now. Now the first message arrived.

But what about using it in the past, for example in reported speech or just meaning in the past?

It was not clear to me until now. The whole sentence is meant to refer to past, e.g. describing what happened during my studies.

I did not know much about trigonometry. So far, I was only using algebra. When I was young.

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    Use then in place of now. "No messages had come until then"; "Until then, I was only using algebra."
    – Kris
    Jan 19, 2014 at 7:58
  • Thanks, also can I start the sentence with Until then? Until then, I was using only A. (meaning that after that, I started using also B)
    – SilkySand
    Jan 19, 2014 at 8:01
  • Yes, as the second example above does.
    – Kris
    Jan 19, 2014 at 8:08
  • Thank you. Just to be clear - the second example uses "so far" so nothing changed in that situation. With "until now", it would mean that it changed.
    – SilkySand
    Jan 19, 2014 at 8:15
  • "Until then, I was only using algebra."
    – Kris
    Jan 19, 2014 at 8:30

2 Answers 2

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If I am understanding you correctly, you want to place an entire sentence in the past.

It was not clear to me until now.
I did not know much about trigonometry. So far, I was only using algebra.

There are several ways to do this. Using the first example, in speech, many people use the simplest forms to speak, so

It was not clear to me until then/that point...

But writing is a bit more formal, so I would take your main verb, was/be and look at the past tenses: you want the past, you want it to have been done/finished in the past, so you want to look at least at the past pluperfect of be, third person, singular):

It had not been clear to me until then (or choose your pint in the past when it became clear: that moment, until I had finished the semester, whenever.)

Do the same to your second example:

I did not know much about trigonometry. So far, I was only using algebra.

I did not know much about trigonometry is fine, it's all in the past. So change the second sentence.

So far, I was only using algebra. (This is a bit incorrect, because your words, so far, and was using indicates a continuous action, so was doesn't match it in tense.

Be, past participle: been; pluperfect: had been + using (continuous) =

So far, I had only been using algebra. (For style reasons, I would change So far to Up to that point or something like it.)

I did not know much about trigonometry. Back then, I had only been using algebra.

Don't feel discouraged if you can't speak like that yet. Most conversations are informal, and it's all put in a simpler past.

I didn't know much about trigonometry. Back then, I only knew Algebra/was only using.

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  • Thank you for a great and detailed answer! English is my third language but I do my best to improve it as much as I can!
    – SilkySand
    Jan 19, 2014 at 9:19
  • You're welcome! I'm very happy to help. And, if you upvote, that will be good for me, too. :) Jan 19, 2014 at 9:21
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"Up until now I had not been able to fix this car."

"If you can't sing well then I'd suggest some singing lessons. Until then, please do not attend our choir."

On a personal note, I wouldn't use "so far" too much in the past. In fact, I would refrain from it.

"So far" is best used with Present Perfect Progressive:

"So far, the company has hired a few candidates for the job."

Or Present Perfect Continuous:

So far, they have not been able to hire any new candidates."

There are, of course, exceptions but those you would have to commit by memory.

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