English Grammar and Style Tip: Until/Till/’Til

As a student, I had teachers ingrain certain maxims in me, such as: “Never use ’til for until.” If that wasn’t enough, I also had “Don’t use till for until because till is a verb for farming the land, not a preposition.” I believed these teachers. I taught like these teachers. I corrected my students like my teachers had corrected me.

At least I did, until/till/’til I discovered I was wrong.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, The Cambridge Dictionary, The Merriam Webster Dictionary, and The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students by Mignon Fogarty (aka The Grammar Girl), till is the older version of until, not a fractional slang version of the word. In fact, according to the Merriam Dictionary website:

“Till has been in use in English since the 9th century; the earliest sense of the word was the same as the preposition to. It has been used as a conjunction meaning “until” since the 12th century.” (Merriam Webster Usage Notes, “Until, Till, ‘Til, or ‘Till?”).

According to all of these sources, the forms till and until are accepted as equal for grammar and style. Using ’til with an apostrophe is considered possible (it has been used before), but etymologically incorrect. So, I suggest sticking with till, or until, but not ’til.

As a teacher of English Language Arts, I am also a lifelong student of my subject. I am not ashamed of this because it makes sense to me. If we stop learning, we often experience entropy, a degeneration of our skills. I want to instill lifelong learning principles in my students, and sometimes, that means I have to admit I have been wrong, and I am still learning.

Till next time, I hope you find something new to learn each day.

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