"Do we have plans next Saturday?"
"No, no - I mean next Saturday. The 22nd."
"That's two Saturdays from now. Next Saturday is the 15th."
"No... the 15th is this Saturday."
Next and this: One might not think this is an important matter, but it turns out it's one of those items that can stand in the way of clear communication.
John Nicholson works in IT here at Minnesota Public Radio, and he brought this subject to our attention. Here's what he told us:
"My friend says that this weekend means the 15th and 16th, and next weekend means the 22nd and 23rd. Same thing for days of the week (this Friday is tomorrow and next Friday is a week from tomorrow). I say that this weekend and next weekend mean the same thingÂ â€” the 15th and 16thÂ â€” and next and this Friday both mean tomorrow. I ask because I've had this discussion with many people, and about half agree with me and half do not. Is it just a personal preference?"
Naturally, the excellent reference book Fowler's Modern English Usage has an entry about next and this. Here's what it saysâ€”it's on page 521 for those of you following along at home:
"In normal use, if said or written early in a given week, next Friday means the immediately following Friday in the same week. Similarly next June means the first June following the date on which it is mentioned."
But before anyone starts considering the matter of "right" and "wrong," Fowler's continues:
"In Scotland and also in some northern dialects of England, next is employed to designate the days of the following week: thus next Friday, the Friday of next week, is contrasted with this Friday, that of the present week."
John Nicholson encounters this disparity between next and this among his family and friends-none of whom are from Scotland. But it's not surprising to find a mash-up of different language habits within the United States, where John lives.
Ultimately, Fowler's recommends that when making an arrangement or organizing a meeting for next Friday, simply include the date in your sentence. That tends to clear up any confusion.
"Let's go to the play next Saturday, March 22nd."
What do you think of the whole next/this debate? Share your thoughts below.
Source: Fowler's Modern English Usage by R.W. Burchfield.
About Grammar Grater
Grammar Grater is a weekly podcast from Minnesota Public Radio that looks at English words, grammar and usage in a time when everybody's a writer. And with the global nature of communication, there's not a single style guide everyone uses. Each week, host Luke Taylor and the Grammatis Personae Players (Cory Busse, Amy Ault, John Ryan and Bridget Murphy) take a lighthearted approach to language by putting common linguistic bugbears through the Grammar Grater.
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