I found a thread about this question here on the site, where people commenting said that "until" couldn't be used to express distances. And people I subsequently asked agreed with that.  BUT then I looked it up in the Cambridge English Dictionary, which says:

until - preposition, conjunction (DISTANCE)
as far as:

  • You should stay on the train until Manchester and then change.
  • Stay on the bus until 57th Street and then walk one block west.

So who's right?


3 Answers 3


As a British English speaker, "stay on the train until Manchester" sounds quite normal to me, but "we walked until the bar" sounds wrong, unless the context is something like "we walked until the bar, then rode our bikes the rest of the way".

The difference is that in the context of a journey, landmarks along that journey represent both places and times. If I say "the road is paved until the county line", I'm narrating what happens as you travel along the road, and "the county line" is a point on the timeline of that narrative.

But note that in any case, "until" specifically connotes duration – it refers to the span of time before event X, not to event X itself. So even if "we walked until the bar" is a valid alternative to "we walked as far as the bar", it definitely doesn't mean the same thing as "we walked to the bar"


I don't believe "until" is expressing a distance in the examples provided. While the examples do involve travel, the usage of until is to express a logical condition to be fulfilled in order for an ongoing activity to stop or change.

Let's take the example "Stay on the bus until 57th Street and then walk one block west." Until is used to connect the ongoing activity, staying on the bus, to the condition, [reaching] 57th Street, that will cause that activity to change. Both examples use until...then as a variation on if...then logic. Also, both sentences are example of slang as it is implied the word "reaching" should follow the word until.

People arguing that until cannot be used as a preposition to govern a distance are correct. "Walk until two miles" is not a grammatically correct sentence. The target of the preposition has to be modified from a distance to an action (e.g. reaching a distance). Thus, "walk until you have gone two miles" is a grammatically correct sentence.


If the Question is “Can we use 'until' for distances as in ‘we walked until the bar?'” then no, never. Rare circumstances might need “… until we reached the bar”. Is that not very different?

By itself, “… until the bar…” could never be acceptable; only, eg, “… until we reached…”.

Merriam Webster sees "until" as a preposition indicating continuance to a time specified, as “… stayed until morning…” MW sees "to" as indicating movement toward… as "drove to the city" or "… to the bar…”

If I'd said Merriam Webster was right, would I still have a downvote for something evidently true? Same for Jeff, below. Shame!

Did no-one notice this is clearly not about distance; only travel? It might not be clear "… until the bar…” can't work by itself. It should be clear "… until a mile…” can't work at all.zzzzz

In "Stay on the bus until 57th Street, then walk one block west…” isn’t the use of “until” to connect the ongoing activity - “… staying on the bus …” - to the condition “[reaching] 57th Street…”?

As often argued, “until” by itself cannot govern distance. "Walk until two miles" is just wrong. The target of the preposition has to be modified from distance to action…

“… walk until two miles…” could never be correct.

“… walk until you have gone two miles" might be acceptable in some circumstances.

“… walk until you reach/have reached the two-mile marker” will normally be acceptable.

“… walk for two miles” will usually be acceptable.


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