See you next Tuesday

I’ve often struggled with the ambiguity of phrases like this week and next week. And any reference to specific, proximous days, like this and next Wednesday.

Let’s start with this week. Assuming a Monday–Sunday week, my strict interpretation of the phrase is that it always means the week that you’re in. So if you say it on a Monday, it means any time until the following Sunday; if you say it on Saturday, then it means today or tomorrow, assuming a future event.

Next week means any time the following week. So if said on a Monday, it means between seven and 13 days out from today. If said on a Sunday, it means any time from tomorrow until a week today.

It appears that this is not everyone’s interpretation. If said sufficiently close to the end of the week, Friday say, this week apparently means any time from the imminent Monday until a week on Sunday. I’m not sure what next week means in such circumstances; one can only assume it means the following week, given the relationship between this and next.

Which brings us on to next Wednesday. Does this mean the next Wednesday with which we are blessed, or Wednesday of next week? If said on a Tuesday, common usage suggests that we’re talking eight days from now. But if said on a Thursday, I think I’d assume six days from now. Leading me to believe it means "Wednesday of next week". But on Sunday, someone referencing next Monday would probably also mean eight days from now, which is neither the next Monday nor Monday of next week.

Can someone give me the unequivocal truth, please? Surely it can’t be open to interpretation.


One Response to “See you next Tuesday”

  1. Gilbert I. on October 19th, 2007 07:02

    This is a case where you can theoretically come up with an official definition, but it will still be used inconsistently in the real world.

    I was introduced to this problem by my English professor at George Washington (D.C). As his story goes, you could tell whether someone in the US grew up in the South vs. North based on their interpretation.

    I am writing this on Friday 10/19. For Monday 10/22, I say “This Coming Monday”, for 10/29, I say “Next Monday.” If there is any hint of hesitation, I give them the date and am done with it.

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