How Soon is Next?

Monday morning 4th July, you’ve just bumped into an old friend, and the conversation is coming to an end:

“Great to see you, we should meet up again soon. How about going fishing next Saturday?”

“Sounds good, but wait, I don’t think I’m free on the 16th.”

“Yeah, but that’s ok, it’s not next week, it’s next Saturday.”

“But next Saturday is next week. You mean this Saturday.”

“Exactly, next Saturday, this Saturday coming.”

“But hang on, how can it be next Saturday and…”

“Just forget it, now I remember why I haven’t seen you in years!!”

This post is inspired by an argument I came across elsewhere on the internet, about when exactly next Saturday is: this week or next week?

For me it’s always been straightforward:

  • This Saturday is the Saturday of this week.
  • Next Saturday is the Saturday of next week.

While there’s no body to officially determine the correct usage, for me this is straightforward and logical, and seems to be the most-commonly used meaning.

But I understand the confusion. If it’s Sunday, then this Saturday was yesterday? That’s akin to a time-travel paradox for the less flexible-minded. And for many people, using next has connotations of distance, so when talking about this Saturday on a Monday, one may accidentally use next Saturday as this Saturday seems so far away. I’ve found myself almost doing this at times.

For others, when they hear next, they automatically think of the next…, so next Saturday for them would be the next Saturday, i.e.  the first Saturday after today. Which could be this week or next week. It’s interesting not only how people can think about the same word in such different ways, but also how we can find it so hard to imagine other possible ways of thinking. It never really occurred to me that someone could take next Saturday to mean the next Saturday, but now that I’m conscious that some people think that way, I can completely understand why.

How best to proceed then, to avoid losing friends and booking a restaurant for the wrong day? I recommend using this Saturday and next Saturday to mean the Saturday of this week and the Saturday of next week respectively, but also adding the date if it’s important that the correct day is made clear.

That way neither your friendship nor your meal suffer, and you also get to subtly teach someone the right way to use the form. Who wouldn’t want that!?



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