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Today is April 4th, 2013. What is meant when someone says "May 1st"? I would assume its May 1, 2013. And "last May 1st" as May 1, 2012.

As for "next May 1st", I would assume "next" is a redundancy if its a day in January. But if spoken on a November 2012 day, I assume its May 1, 2013. And "May 1" means May 1, 2012 (when spoken on that November day).

Is this unambiguously true in all conventions in English? What are the rules for "last", "next" or avoiding both adverbs depending on the current date and the date the person is talking about?

Are there phrases which when combined with "May 1st", specify the year compared to the plain "on May 1st"?

It seems to be the convention for me in India. But I want to correct it if its ambiguous elsewhere.

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possible duplicate of Which day does "next Tuesday" refer to? –  Waggers Apr 4 '13 at 10:51
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There are no conventions with dates. It's all handled by context. –  Andrew Leach Apr 4 '13 at 10:56

3 Answers 3

Context matters.

Labour day is celebrated on May First.

Refers to that date, every year.

I saw some Morris dancing around a maypole on May the First.

Clearly refers to the past.

I'm glad my coven will be celebrating Bealtaine on May the First, rather than another day near to it.

Clearly refers to the near-future.

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Labour Day might be celebrated on the First of May, but Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. :) –  tchrist Apr 4 '13 at 17:50
    
@tchrist May 1 is or has been Labor Day in some places, including the US; after all the whole point of having a day called "Labor Day" in September is to help discourage commemorations of the Haymarket Martyrs. If nobody celebrated Labor Day in the US on the first of May, there'd have been no need to undermine it. –  Jon Hanna May 8 '13 at 13:46

"next" appears to be used differently in different places.

Let's assume it's Monday. When I was growing up in the UK, "next Friday" would mean the Friday in five days time: "this Friday" would mean the same. Here in North America most people take "this Friday" to mean the Friday in five days time, and "next Friday" to mean the Friday in twelve days time.

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The rule of thumb I've seen and used is that "next Wednesday" evolved from "Wednesday next" which in turn evolved from "Wednesday of next week", without regard to whether you're speaking on Monday or Friday.

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato. :) –  tchrist Apr 5 '13 at 0:33

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