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In the sentence "Start using something by October 26th", is the word "by" understood as "no later than" or from that date?

Thanks

  • I would understand it to mean "No later than" – Max Williams Aug 18 '16 at 7:33
  • I second the duplicate, voting to close. Especially since the questioner has the answer already. – Helmar Aug 18 '16 at 8:47
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The word means 'no later than' in this sentence. It is being used in a very specific sense.

See the following definition:

by

9 : not later than (a specified time) : at, in, on, or before (a specified time)

We need to leave by noon at the latest.
They should be here by tomorrow.
I don't know where she is. She should have been back by now.

see learner's dictionary

If you have to start using something 'by' a given date, once that date has elapsed you should have started using it. This is different 'from' a given date, because I could use my inheritance 'from' the date at which I receive it, but this does not imply I 'have to' or that I 'should' use it from this date. By in this sense, certainly has the idea of necessity attached to it.

Your first suggestion was correct: "no later than".

The word is used in a similar fashion on produce that has to be used no later than a certain date in the UK. These products will be stamped with "Use by: xx/xx/xx" where the xx/xx/xx represents some date by which the product must be used to avoid the risk of eating food that is no longer fit for consumption according to the manufacturer.

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By appears to be a flexible term and we may need more information of the wording around it or what it refers to. However the word start implies it would begin on/before that date.

In the meantime, see if it is close to any of the dictionary entries below: http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/by

(9)

a : not later than (a specified time) : at, in, on, or before (a specified time)

We need to leave by noon at the latest.
They should be here by tomorrow.
I don't know where she is. She should have been back by now.
By this time next year she hopes to have a new job.
She's planning to get married next year, by which time she hopes to have a new job.

b : during the time until (a specified time)

By 2000 the U.S. had been an independent country for more than 200 years.
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