“Before [date]” and “by [date]” are two phrases that might seem similar but are actually very different from each other. Which of them refers to before the given date, and which refers to on or before the given date? Keep reading this article to find out.
Difference Between “Before [date]” and “By [date]”
“Before [date] is not inclusive of the given date. This means that the action should be done before the given date. “By [date],” on the other hand, implies that a particular action should be done before or on the given date but not after.
Take, for example, the following sentence,
- Please submit this work before Wednesday.
This means that the said work should be submitted before the arrival of Wednesday, not on Wednesday or after Wednesday.
On the other hand, if I say,
- Please submit this work by Wednesday.
This means that the said work should be submitted on Wednesday. It can also be submitted before Wednesday but not after.
What Does “Before [date]” Mean?
Before [date] signifies that a particular action should be done before the specified date and not on or after the date. It implies that a particular action’s timeframe only includes periods or days before the given deadline.
To further explain the meaning of the phrase “Before [date]”, here are a few examples that would give you an idea on how to use the phrase in a sentence.
- The lecturer in charge of my online course asked me to turn in my project before Thursday.
- I need an answer from you regarding our previous discussion before next month.
- I had a lot of mood swings and an incredible appetite before the delivery of my baby.
- We are looking at having our wedding before Christmas.
- She told me that she needed the cake a day before her son’s birthday.
- I specifically asked you to send them the proposal before the end of the week.
- Could you help me with my bags before you go home?
Note, the sentences above, all the actions must be carried out or implied to have been carried out before the specified time and not during or after it.
What Does “By [date]” Mean?
By [date] means that a particular action should be carried out before or on the specified date, but not after. It implies that the action can only be done either on the days before the deadline or on the deadline itself.
To further explain the meaning of the phrase “By [date]”, here are a few examples showing how to use the phrase in a sentence.
- I was required to pay up the rest of my loan by Monday.
- She needs her car by the end of the month.
- Our test is expected to end by the end of the month.
- The customer would need her order by afternoon.
- By the end of the year, I will be leaving for the United States.
- The directors said that they would like a rundown of our budget by the end of the week.
- My baby is expected to be due by the end of the month.
Note that in all the sentences above, the actions are implied to be carried out or to have been carried out before or on the given date, but not after it.
“Before [date]” Synonyms
Having fully understood the meaning of the phrase “Before [date]”, here are a few words and phrases that are similar in meaning to the phrase and can be used interchangeably with it:
- Prior to
- Ahead of
- Earlier than
- No later than
- Previous to
“By [date]” Synonyms
You have learned that the meaning of the phrase “by [date]” is on or earlier than the given date. But are there other ways to say this? Here are a few words and phrases that are similar in meaning to the phrase and can be used interchangeably with it:
- As at the time of
- In time of
- Not later than the end of
- In good time for
It can be tricky to differentiate between the two phrases, but it is helpful to note that “before [date]” only includes the day before the given date and not the date itself. While “by [date]” includes both the days before the given date and the given date itself.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.