Until Now

The phrase “until now” is often used incorrectly. This can result in a sentence having the opposite meaning to the one intended.

Consider the following sentence:

Until now, the above documents and information have not been provided by the Banks.

What does the writer mean? Have the Banks provided the documents and information or not?
A native English speaker would be likely to say yes. But the writer intended to say that they have not.

In English the phrase “until now” is used to refer to a change of circumstances where the change happens now.

E.g. Until now I have never eaten sushi.

This means that it is the first time the speaker has eaten sushi. Until the present moment the speaker never ate sushi. NOW the speaker is eating sushi.

So, if we apply this understanding of “until now” to the first example, it means that until the present moment the Banks have not provided the documents and information. NOW (or in the very recent past) they have provided them.

That is how a native English speaker would understand the sentence.

Instead of “until now”, in this sentence the writer should have used the phrases “to date”, “as yet” or “so far”. They all have the same meaning. “To date” is formal; “so far” informal.

RIGHT
To date, the above documents and information have not been provided by the Banks.

Other examples:

WRONG
Please be advised that the request for payment sent to Mr Smith on 17 September 2010 has not been picked up from the Post Office until now.

RIGHT
Please be advised that the request for payment sent to Mr Smith on 17 September 2010 has not been picked up from the Post Office.

Adding “until now” here gives the impression that NOW (or in the very recent past) Mr Smith has picked up the request for payment, which is not the case. In order to correct the sentence we simply delete “until now”. The use of the present perfect tense (has not been picked up) is enough to convey that we are referring to time that continues from the past to the present. If we want to stress this point we can add the word “still”:

Please be advised that the request for payment sent to Mr Smith on 17 September 2010 still has not been picked up from the Post Office.

WRONG
We declare that the demanded amount has not been transferred to the bank account until today, which is the final date for repayment.

RIGHT
We declare that the demanded amount has not been transferred to the bank account to date, which is the final date for repayment.

Here, the incorrect sentence gives the impression that TODAY the demanded amount has been transferred. The correct version makes it clear that the demanded amount it still outstanding. “As yet” and “so far” would not work in this sentence as it refers to a specific date.

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