English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

(I have completely rewritten the question in an attempt to make it clearer)

In a certain British English exam, you are given a statement, and must then go through three sentences and choose the one that gives accurate information, according to the original statement.

The original statement is as follows:

1) "This road will be closed for repairs from May 1 for 2 weeks."

The sentence that follows is not the correct answer, however I have difficulty explaining exactly why this is not correct:

2) "This road will be repaired in two weeks' time beginning on May 1."

What I would like to know is if sentence 2 means the same as:

a) they will start repairing the road in two weeks, beginning on May 1

b) they will have finished repairing the road in two weeks, having begun on May 1

c) both a) and b) are possible

P.S.: If this question is still considered unfit for EL&U, please leave me a comment so I can learn how to further improve this and other questions.

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by Kris, Hellion, Kristina Lopez, MετάEd, Matt E. Эллен Jun 14 '13 at 8:14

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Neither (a) nor (b), nor your rewrite, reflects what the original sentence means, which is

The road will be closed for repairs during the two weeks which begin on May 1—that is, from May 1 to May 14.

As for your rewrite:

This road will be repaired in two weeks' time beginning on May 1.

A native speaker would probably not use the phrase in two weeks (time) in this context. That phrase in futurive contexts usually means “two weeks from now”, from the time of utterance. Accordingly, will be repaired in two weeks would be parsed with repaired taken in a telic sense, as expressing a completed action; the entire sentence would be understood to mean “repairs will be finished two weeks from today”, as in your (b).

Adding the phrase beginning May 1 does not immediately alter this understanding. If you utter the sentence between April 18 and April 30, it will simply imply that repairs will take correspondingly less time. If you utter it on any other date it will confuse the reader or hearer, who will have to puzzle out what you meant to say.

Note, however, that the picture is a bit different if the sentence is cast in the past tense.

The road was repaired in two weeks.

This will be taken to to mean that repairs occupied the two weeks which began at the Reference Time established in your previous narrative.

The road was repaired in two weeks beginning on May 1.

This will be taken to mean what you want it to: repairs occupied the two weeks beginning on May 1.

In two weeks is always better; in two weeks' time adds no nuance of meaning, it's just bureaucratic hyper-precision.

share|improve this answer
Actually both sentences, 1 and 2, were taken from an English exam (BrE), which probably explains the 'bureaucratic hyper-precision'. – Sara Costa Jun 9 '13 at 11:54
@SaraCosta Well, I guess you have to teach people to read bad English, too - there's so much of it! – StoneyB Jun 9 '13 at 11:56

Sentence two means that they will have finished repairing the road in two weeks' time since May 1, but not necessarily beginning on May 1.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.