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I came across this sentence in a newspaper:

Five minutes from the end I didn't think we could win this game.We deserved to win this championship.

I am confused as to why he uses from the end. I think it should be before the end, or can they be used interchangeably?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

From a point in time can mean starting before that point or starting after that point, and the context will generally make it clear which. So in your example the listener will interpret from as meaning before. But in the following example, the future tense tells the listener to interpret from as meaning after:

  • Three weeks from today I'll be living in Berlin.

If you think your statement may be ambiguous, then it's best to use before or after. For example:

  • The fire alarm started ringing ten minutes from the end of the match

is ambiguous, although most people would probably interpret it as before.

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it is still confusing – Krishna Chandra Tiwari May 17 '12 at 7:19
In your example, five minutes from the end and five minutes before the end are interchangeable. The context is that of football player talking after the game about how he felt 5 minutes before it finished, so there is no ambiguity. Usually the context in which the word from occurs will be unambiguous enough for the listener to correctly interpret if it means before or after. Sometimes, however, the word from may be ambiguous. In such circumstances it's best to use the more precise word. – Shoe May 17 '12 at 8:14

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