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Over the weekend, I watched a talking head on TV saying the following sentence.

An economic recovery will come faster, not sooner.

I can't make proper sense of this as both are synonymous to me. I cannot find this as a common phrase either.

Has anyone got an explanation for this statement? What are the differences between faster and sooner in this context?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Probably

Faster here means, that the time period, in which the economic recovery will take place will be rather short.

Not sooner means that the time period between now and the moment in time, when the economic recovery starts, won't be short.

Faster, not sooner means, that the process of economic recovery won't take long to finish, but you should not expect it to start in the near future.

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1  
I totally agree. Recovery may only take a couple months, but don't expect it any time soon. –  Richard Aug 23 '11 at 14:04
1  
I think you're right. It's poor phrasing, but if we assume the speaker did have a clear idea of what he was trying to say, this seems the most likely meaning. –  FumbleFingers Aug 23 '11 at 14:54
    
+1 The inference is that the actions they are taking may not show any effect now but when the recovery finally starts the effects will kick in quickly. –  Chad Aug 23 '11 at 16:22
    
I still don't get it: assuming two things start at the same time, the one that happens faster also finishes sooner (e.g. if a car travels faster than a horse-drawn carriage, it will also arrive at the destination sooner). (If for some reason he's comparing things that won't start at the same time, that is the most crucial thing he must mention it in his statement. It just seems like poor phrasing to me.) –  ShreevatsaR Aug 23 '11 at 18:19
    
Here there are no such two things. At least, they are not obvious - I'd guess the speaker intended a pun, sooner being one thing he compares and speed of the economy recovery the other. Seems in English this doesn't work well. –  Philoto Aug 24 '11 at 7:22

Faster generally refers to speed, whereas sooner refers to time. In the sense of coming/arriving, these are essentially interchangeable, as the approach involves a speed, and arrival a time.

An example where they are not interchangeable:

Motorcycles are much faster than bicycles.

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To expand slightly on Philoto's good answer:

Background:

1) the USA is still on the tail end of a recession.

2) An economic recovery is expected to occur eventually.

3) People have been hoping for / expecting evidence that the recovery is starting "any day now".

Explanation:

4) The talking head is saying that there is still no evidence that the recovery has started, nor any new evidence that it will be starting any earlier than others have been predicting.

5) He expects that when it does occur, the 'force' of the recovery will be greater than anticipated; e.g. rather than simply "slowly recovering over a period of months and years" he's predicting "coming roaring back and showing huge growth in weeks".

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The sentence should be read as "An economic recovery will come faster than sooner, not sooner." It means the recovery will come very quickly, not quickly.

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I'd have to agree with you. They are synonymous in this sense. Both mean exactly the same thing. I have a feeling that the talking head on TV is trying to state something that sounds impressive, but he doesn't know he has stated something meaningless.

Consider this, there has been an economic downturn, and the recovery is predicted to start in 2 yrs. time. Then, it was changed, and the economic recovery was predicted to come in about 12 months time. It will not only come sooner, it will come faster.

Because the sentence stated "come faster", we know it was not referring to the time period for recovery, but the time taken for the recovery to begin. Thus, the sentence lacks true meaning.

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yeah i felt he was trying to sound smart, and i missed the great point he was making –  JoseK Aug 23 '11 at 12:51
    
I think it's unlikely the speaker was just trying to sound smart without having an actual point he was trying to make. If we had access to the preceding / following sentences, it might be more obvious what that point was. I'm guessing @Philoto has the right of it. –  FumbleFingers Aug 23 '11 at 14:59

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