Also found in: Idioms, Wikipedia.


Except on the condition that; except under the circumstances that: "Exceptional talent does not always win its reward unless favored by exceptional circumstances" (Mary Elizabeth Braddon).
Except for; except.

[Middle English unlesse, alteration (influenced by un-, not) of onlesse : on, on; see on + lesse, less; see less.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(subordinating) except under the circumstances that; except on the condition that: they'll sell it unless he hears otherwise.
rare except
[C14: onlesse, from on on + lesse less; compare French à moins que, literally: at less than]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(ʌnˈlɛs, ən-)

1. except under the circumstances that: We'll be there at nine, unless the train is late.
2. except; but; save: Nothing will come of it, unless disaster.
[1400–50; late Middle English preposition phrase on less,o less(e), earlier upon less on a lesser footing (than)]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


You usually use unless to say that something can only happen or be true in particular circumstances. For example, instead of saying 'I will go to France only if the firm pays my expenses', you can say 'I will not go to France unless the firm pays my expenses'. When you are talking about the future, you use the present simple after unless.

We cannot understand disease unless we understand the person who has the disease.

When you are talking about a situation in the past, you use the past simple after unless.

She wouldn't go with him unless I came too.

Be Careful!
Don't use a future form after unless. Don't say, for example, 'I will not go to France unless the firm will pay my expenses'.

You also use unless to mention the only circumstances in which something will not happen or be true. For example, instead of saying 'If we are not told to stop, we will carry on selling the furniture', you can say 'We will carry on selling the furniture unless we are told to stop'.

The mail will go by air unless it is quicker by other means.
We might as well stop unless you've got something else you want to talk about.

Be Careful!
Don't use 'unless' to say that something would happen or be true if particular circumstances did not exist. For example, if you have a cold, don't say 'I would go to the party unless I had this cold'. You say 'I would go to the party if I didn't have this cold'.

She'd be pretty if she didn't wear so much make-up.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012
إلا إذاإِلاّ إِذاإذا لَم، ما لَم
pokud nepokutnés výjimkouže
med mindremedmindre
osim ako
hacsak nemkivéve ha
nemanema, nema òví aîeins
...이 아니면
išskyrus kaijei nenebent
ja vien... neja... ne
ak ne-pokiaľ ne-s výnimkou, že
razen če
om inte
eğer ... değilsehariç-in dışında-mezse/medikçeolmadıkça
trừ khi


[ənˈles] CONJa menos que + subjun, a no ser que + subjun
unless he comes tomorrowa menos que venga mañana, a no ser que venga mañana
unless I hear to the contrarya menos que me digan lo contrario, a no ser que me digan lo contrario
I won't come unless you phone meno vendré a menos que me llames, no vendré a no ser que me llames
unless I am mistaken, we're lostsi no me equivoco, estamos perdidos
unless otherwise statedde no especificarse lo contrario
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ʌnˈlɛs] conjà moins que ... ne + subj, à moins de + infin
I won't come unless you phone me → Je ne viendrai pas à moins que tu ne me téléphones.
They can't vote unless they have French citizenship → Ils ne peuvent pas voter à moins d'avoir la nationalité française., Ils ne peuvent pas voter à moins qu'ils n'aient la nationalité française.
He was told he would be killed unless he left the area → On lui a dit qu'il serait tué à moins qu'il ne quitte la région.
Unless he comes, we won't be able to start → On ne pourra pas commencer à moins qu'il ne vienne.
I'm not happy unless I ride every day
BUT Je ne suis heureux que si je peux monter à cheval tous les jours.
unless I am mistaken → à moins que je ne me trompe
unless otherwise stated → sauf indication contraire
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


conjes sei denn; (at beginning of sentence) → wenn … nicht, sofern … nicht; don’t do it unless I tell you tomach das nicht, es sei denn, ich sage es dir; unless I tell you to, don’t do itsofern or wenn ich es dir nicht sage, mach das nicht; unless I am mistaken …wenn or falls ich mich nicht irre; unless otherwise statedsofern nicht anders angezeigt or angegeben; unless there is an interruptionvorausgesetzt, alles läuft ohne Unterbrechung
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ʌnˈlɛs] conja meno che non + sub, se non + indic, a meno di + infin
we won't get there on time unless we leave earlier → non arriveremo in tempo a meno di partire prima or a meno che non partiamo prima
unless otherwise stated → salvo indicazione contraria
unless I am mistaken → se non mi sbaglio
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(ənˈles) conjunction
1. if not. Don't come unless I telephone.
2. except when. The directors have a meeting every Friday, unless there is nothing to discuss.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


إِلاّ إِذا pokud ne medmindre es sei denn εκτός αν a no ser que ellei à moins que osim ako a meno che もし・・・でなければ ...이 아니면 tenzij med mindre chyba, że a menos que если не om inte นอกจาก olmadıkça trừ khi 除非
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009
References in classic literature ?
Never yet have I found the woman by whom I should like to have children, unless it be this woman whom I love: for I love thee, O Eternity!
I say at once there are fewer difficulties in holding hereditary states, and those long accustomed to the family of their prince, than new ones; for it is sufficient only not to transgress the customs of his ancestors, and to deal prudently with circumstances as they arise, for a prince of average powers to maintain himself in his state, unless he be deprived of it by some extraordinary and excessive force; and if he should be so deprived of it, whenever anything sinister happens to the usurper, he will regain it.
The Vice-President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
No disease of any sort was ever known among the Ozites, and so no one ever died unless he met with an accident that prevented him from living.
The truth of this is sufficiently manifest from the single circumstance, that the philosophers of the schools accept as a maxim that there is nothing in the understanding which was not previously in the senses, in which however it is certain that the ideas of God and of the soul have never been; and it appears to me that they who make use of their imagination to comprehend these ideas do exactly the some thing as if, in order to hear sounds or smell odors, they strove to avail themselves of their eyes; unless indeed that there is this difference, that the sense of sight does not afford us an inferior assurance to those of smell or hearing; in place of which, neither our imagination nor our senses can give us assurance of anything unless our understanding intervene.
I must have a bad disposition, for my misfortunes have soured and embittered me exceedingly: I was beginning insensibly to cherish very unamiable feelings against my fellow-mortals, the male part of them especially; but it is a comfort to see there is at least one among them worthy to be trusted and esteemed; and doubtless there are more, though I have never known them, unless I except poor Lord Lowborough, and he was bad enough in his day.
If Miss Summers will not keep her, you must find me out another school, unless we can get her married immediately.
“We have certainly heard bad news,” returned Elizabeth, “ and it may be necessary that my father should leave home for a short period; unless I can persuade him to trust my cousin Richard with the business, whose absence from the country, just at this time, too, might be inexpedient.”
At all seasons, therefore, when the good man was alone with the youth, especially when the latter was totally at ease, he took occasion to remind him of his former miscarriages, but in the mildest and tenderest manner, and only in order to introduce the caution which he prescribed for his future behaviour; "on which alone," he assured him, "would depend his own felicity, and the kindness which he might yet promise himself to receive at the hands of his father by adoption, unless he should hereafter forfeit his good opinion: for as to what had past," he said, "it should be all forgiven and forgotten.
My heart would feel to be a crime Unless it trembled with the strings.
Jupiter replied, "It is lest we should seem to covet the honor for the fruit." But said Minerva, "Let anyone say what he will the olive is more dear to me on account of its fruit." Then said Jupiter, "My daughter, you are rightly called wise; for unless what we do is useful, the glory of it is vain."
Unfortunately, Allah has made me so that I must also take off your head - unless," he added, thoughtfully, "you offer me half of the gold; for He made me weak under temptation."