I've heard people using this idiom, such as "each day is better than the next", or "you hope that each experience you have is better than the next" (heard this one on a TV show not long ago), apparently in a positive way.

However, if taken literally, I find the meaning very negative - if the current thing is better than the next, then the next thing must be worse, so things would just keep getting worse and worse. How do you explain this phrase/idiom?

  • 1
    Heh fascinating! How bizarre.
    – Fattie
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 6:33
  • 2
    This seems to fit right in with the (AmE?) usage of "I could care less", which is usually meant to mean the exact opposite of what is said :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 10:40

6 Answers 6


You're absolutely right.

A quick google suggests that this is a commonly misquoted phrase.

The phrase should be 'Each day is better than the last'.


As noted, it apparently is a misuse of a sentence, especially in Am E, though, as Ngram. shows, I'd like to point out that the correct sentence better than the last has been gaining more popularity versus better than the next in the last decades.


The correct and long used phrase was always "each day is better than the last". Which means things are getting better.

The phrase "each day is better than the next" was probably popularized by its use in There's something about Mary, a very popular comedy from 1998, by a character who was commenting about his bad marriage.

But obviously some people were too inattentive to realize the phrase is a joke twisting the original phrase. Personally I've never heard it stated as "better than the next" except as straight irony about a job or long term situation being crappy. I usually hear it as "better than the last" to denote optimism about the future.


It might well have arisen as a conflation of

'each day [etc] is better than the last'


[I'm] no better than the next man'.

I'm enough of a prescriptivist to be glad that the previous two answers label it as a 'misuse'.


You guys can't be serious! It's meant to mean each day is getting worse. It's a deliberate joke. Not at all a misuse. SMH

Very much like the following:

"How are you?" "Oh, average; Worse than yesterday, but better than tomorrow".

  • 2
    No. It's not a joke. It's just people learning a phrase as an idiomatic unit and using it as such, knowing what the phrase in its entirety means and not thinking about what the actual, logical implication of the words that make up the phrase is. Personally, I had never given it a moment’s thought before now, and I have used the phrase on several occasions. I have never heard it used jokingly, only in a sincere sense where the meaning very obviously is one of things getting better day by day, not worse. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 10:14
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    There are obvious misuses which appear in a Google search for "day is better than the next", and OP adds the caveat that it seems to be examples of the non-witty variant that they have come across. Commented Jul 24, 2015 at 10:17

I have seen "better than the next" misused numerous times by the author of a teen fantasy series. In context it is obviously meant as "better than the last". It bothers me that this is common usage and included in books.

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