This and Next

2005-12-08

The temporal distinction between "this" and "next" can be confusing to those who are learning English, as I found out today by trying to describe it to someone. Consider the following exchange between two co-workers on the morning of Thursday, December 8:

Do you have time to meet this week? [Translation: Thursday or Friday, December 8 or 9]

Nope, I'm booked up, now about next week? [Translation: Sometime between the following Monday and Friday, December 12-16]

That won't work, I'm at a conference in New York all next week. How about the week after next? [Translation: Sometime between December 19-23]

OK, the week after next works for me, let's talk next week to set up a time.

Got it? This week means "the week we're in right now". Next week means "the next week that will happen after this week we're in right now". The week after next means "the week that will happen after next week".

I think we talk this way because we divide time into weekends and weeks. So this week is the Monday through Friday of the week we're in right now, but "this weekend" is the weekend that directly follows this week -- in our example, Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11. By contrast, "next weekend" is the weekend that directly follows next week -- in our example, Saturday and Sunday, December 17 and 18. (Just like "this year" is the year we're in right now whereas "next year" is the year that follows this year -- thus the silly habit of saying "see you next year" on December 31.)

It may be confusing, but at least it's consistent.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal