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I need to express how an event occurred before-or-at a certain time in the past (non exclusive or, which of the two alternatives is the actual one is left open). For the future I would have used "by", but what about the past? "Until" is for prolonged actions/states only, just like "through", "before" excludes the cutoff moment, and an expression like "by yesterday" seems to me intentionally wrong (both syntactically and semantically).

Or can I actually say something like

Last weekend we went skiing, we had bought the equipment by then.

This is still a special case, as it involves the completion of a "pending" action, not just an event. Does

The concert was held by September.

make sense? What about:

Please provide a list of all his books published before 2000 included.

or is it wrong: are "before" and "included" mutually exclusive?

Are there any other possibilities?

  • Last weekend we went skiing, we had already bought the equipment by then. sounds better in my ears. The second is not grammatically correct. The concert had already been held before the end of September. – mplungjan Jan 21 '14 at 13:36
  • Agree with mplungjan. The "by" is used in the construct "X had happened by the time Y happened". So the second example doesn't make sense because you're not comparing it to another event. – starsplusplus Jan 21 '14 at 13:44
  • The comma splice needs correcting. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 21 '14 at 15:12
  • The word is not "included" but "inclusive": "Please provide a list of all his books published before 2000, inclusive." Or "Please provide a list of all his books published before or in the year 2000." – Peter Shor Jan 21 '14 at 16:02
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Last weekend we went skiing, we had bought the equipment by then.<

"Having already bought the equipment, we went skiing last weekend."

The concert was held by September.

"The concert was held in September." Or if you're trying to express it in terms of whether or not a deadline been met, then you might say, "The concert had been held by September."

Please provide a list of all his books published before 2000 included.

"Please provide a list of all his books published before the year 2000."

(For whatever reason, the precise year "2000" reads as a little ambiguous to me. 19xx is clearly a year reference, as is 20xx, but "2000" seems like it could be referring to a quantity, so I always include the phrase "the year" with "2000".)

  • Thanks, but is my question unclear? You only seem to address the issue of joint before&at in the "deadline" part... Shall I improve the question? – Quartz Jan 21 '14 at 17:21
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The meaning you intended to convey in the three examples you gave was clear, everyone would understand the statements.

However, Bob has re-worded the expressions in the way a natural English speaker would express them, for example he removed the word 'included' from the end of the last example because it adds nothing to the meaning .

I would expect that the the word 'included' does not often stand on its own. Usually it is limited to the expressions 'is included' or 'is not included', and may be about a special deal in a shop or reastaurant, for eaxmple. Or you could say'Including tax' which means that tax is part of the cost, 'Including Bob' if you have a group of people and want to make it clear that Bob is in it. It just adds a little bit of emphasis to reduce any doubt so 'The years 2000 to 2014 inluding 2014 January but not February' make the scope quite clear.

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