Expressing "all the way until" with "zhidao"
直到 (zhídào) can only be used to describe a time frame that began in the past and continued until a point closer to the present. It is like the English phrase, "all the way until." It can be used in an affirmative or negative form, expressing that something has taken a while or is late. The word 才 (cái) often teams up with 直到, and serves to emphasize the lateness aspect.
In the positive form, which uses 才, it may be more natural in English to express as "not until... did" something happen.
直到 + Time / Event ，Subj. + 才 ⋯⋯
This subject can also be place before 直到.
- 直到 十二 点 半 ，我 才 做 完 作业 。It wasn't until twelve thirty in the morning that I finished homework.
- 直到 半 个 月 以后 ，我 的 感冒 才 好 。It took me half a month to recover from the cold.
- 她 直到 十八 岁 才 见到 亲生 父母 。It wasn't until she was eighteen that she met her biological parents.
- 我 直到 大学 毕业 才 开始 独立 生活 。It wasn't until I graduated from college that I started living independently.
- 直到 去 了 北京 ，他 才 知道 一个人 在 大 城市 多 辛苦 。It wasn't until he went to Beijing that he understood how hard it is to be alone in a big city.
直到 + Time / Event ，Subj. + 都 + 不 / 没 ⋯⋯
- 直到 他 死 ，我们 都 没 见 过 。We didn't meet until he passed away.
- 他们 是 同学 ，但是 直到 毕业 ，都 没 说 过 话 。They are classmates. But they had never spoken until they graduated.
- 直到 电影 结束 ，他 都 没 来 。He didn't show up until the movie was over.
- 直到 我 弟弟 上 大学 ，他 都 不 会 洗 衣服 。My younger brother couldn't wash clothes until he went to college.
- 我 认识 他 一年 多 了 ，直到 现在 ，我 都 不 知道 他 的 全名 。I've known him for over a year, but I still don't know his full name.
Sources and further reading