up until/until/up to

Up until/Until/Up to? What’s the difference?

The words Up until/Until/Up to have very similar meanings and uses so let’s learn a little bit about how they are the same and how they are different.

Up until vs Until difference

“Up until” and “until” have the same meaning but the word “up” can be added in certain circumstances.

I worked until 8:30 at night.

I worked up until 8:30 at night.

In this example, “up” adds a little bit of emphasis that the person wants to make sure that you know that it was all the way until 8:30 pm, in other words, this is a very late time for them. 

The purpose of “up” in this situation is to draw the listeners attention to the part of the sentence that comes after “until”

You can hand in your essay up until the sixth of June.

In this example, the date is the information that the speaker wants to emphasize because it is the most important piece of information for the listener to remember.

We also use “up until” when talking about our past.

Up until that day, I had no idea that you were so excited about roller coasters.

Again this places emphasis on what happens after “until”

Up until yesterday, I didn’t know that you could send voice messages on Whatsapp.  

We were thinking about going on holiday to Portugal until the pandemic hit.

Up until now or until now?

“Up until now” emphasizes what comes next and “until now” is a neutral statement about what occurred between a past point and now.

Up until now, she has been at work every day.

What have you been doing until now?


“Until” means from one point in time to another point. It shows the duration of something and emphasizes the endpoint.

You have until Friday to submit your essay.

In this example, the meaning of “until” is that you can submit your essay any time between now and Friday. 

Up until

“Up until” also means the duration from one point in time to another. Sometimes “up until” means the same thing as “until” but it can also imply that the part that directly follows “until” is more important.

You have up until the fourth of July to finish your project.

Up to(meaning and use)

Up to has many meanings including:

1 Doing something(often something suspicious) 

What are you up to over there?

2 Make a decision

I don’t care, it’s up to you

3 Reach a maximum point 

Fill the cup up to the top.

This last meaning is very similar to the meaning of “until”. The difference is that “up to” is used for physical upper limits while “until” only shows duration in time.  

“Up to” can also be used to show the duration of time but this is more common in informal spoken English.


“Till” is a synonym of “until” and should only be used in informal situations like text messages. 

It is also very common in spoken English.

I won’t get out till Sunday.