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I do not fully understand the difference in meaning between the time expressions 'next week' and 'the following week'.

How can we change next week to the following week? If an original situation is reported a few days forwards, then should it be 'this week', not 'the following week'.

Examples: - "I'll visit my grandma next week," said Mary on Wednesday. A few day later, say on Monday, Sam, her friend reported the speech. Thus, Sam said that Mary said she would visit her grandma the following week ( if I follow the rule of changing time expression as in here https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/reported-speech-time-place.htm)

  • " I'll visit my grandma the following week," means " I'll visit my grandma in 2 weeks time." In normal statement, not in reported speech, the following week means 2 weeks after the said day.

Why is "the following week" in a reported speech used to mean "next week" in the original sentence?

  • Can you yourself give full example sentences where you are confused? We don't know exactly what you're confused about. – Mitch Jul 31 '15 at 2:07
  • Actually, I get confused with the change from next week to the following week. – Jjang eu Jul 31 '15 at 2:09
  • You said that already. It still doesn't clear it up. Please give full sentences (one with each term) – Mitch Jul 31 '15 at 2:11
  • M sorry. M new here and I don't no how thing is functioning. Allow me to clarify my question. As I have learnt, 'next week' and 'the following week' are not the same. Next week means the immediate week after the stated week while the following week means the week after next week (roughly 2 weeks). That's why, I couldn't get the point why we change next week in the original speech to the following week in reported speech. Actually, I have searched for the explanation, yet what I got is only that because the original speech is not reported around the same time. – Jjang eu Jul 31 '15 at 2:35
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    I see your confusion. That is not what "next week" or "the following week" means. "Next week" means the week immediately after the week containing today. "The following week" means the week immediately after the stated week. – Peter Shor Jul 31 '15 at 3:56
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Next week, with no article, always refers to the week after the week of "utterance time"—the time when the words are spoken or written. For instance:

  1. If I say to you now, on Thursday July 29, "John will answer next week" . . . what I mean by next week is the week after this week, in which my utterance time falls: August 3-9.

  2. If I say to you now, on Thursday July 29, "John said on Thursday July 2 'I will answer next week'" . . . Next week is part of John's quoted utterance, so what he meant was the week after his utterance time: July 6-12.

  3. But if I say to you now, on Thursday July 29, "John told me on Thursday July 2 that he would answer next week" . . . I am not reporting John's actual utterance, but only the substance of his utterance, so next week is part of my utterance, and what I mean is again the week after my utterance time: July 6-12.

The following week or the next week ordinarily refers to the week after "reference time"—the time which the speaker or writer is talking about.

  1. If I say to you now, on Thursday July 29, "John told me on Thursday July 2 that he would answer the following week" . . . I am now reporting the substance of #2, a conversation on July 2, which is my reference time, and the following week refers to the week after that: July 6-12

  2. If I say to you now, on Thursday July 29, "John always puts things off. If you tell him now that you will ask again on September 1, when September 1 rolls around he will still tell that he will answer the next week" ... Now I am reporting the substance of a conversation in the future, on September 1, which is my reference time, and the next week refers to the week after that: September 7-13.

With a report of a present utterance, you may revert to the version without the article, because in that case reference time and utterance time are identical.

John says that he will answer next week.

With 'generic' present-tense utterances, which are not tied to a specific reference time but to all reference times, you may use either version

It doesn't matter when you ask, John always tells you he will answer { next week / the following week }.

The issue you raise about "the following week" involving a two-week span rests on a misunderstanding. If I say

Next week I will go to London, and the following week I will go to Paris.

I start by talking about one week from now, which becomes my reference time, and the next clause uses the following week because I am now talking about the week after my reference time. Here we are indeed talking about a time two weeks after my utterance time, now.

But if I say

Two weeks ago I went to New York, and the following week I went to Chicago.

My reference time is two weeks ago, and the following week is one week after that ... but it is only one week from my utterance time--last week, in fact.

Next week = the week after utterance time. The next week or the following week = the week after reference time.


Some people will tell you that you should always say the following week, because the next week means "during the week starting with the utterance". Unhappily, the only people who actually distinguish the two that way are the people who believe it's a rule, and there are lots of other people who say that it's not a rule and never has been. In practice, then you can't count on the rule, since both version are equally ambiguous; so if you have any doubt, and if it matters, ask what exactly is meant. And there's no reason why you should follow the "rule" either; if you prefer next week, go ahead and use it, and if anyone seeks to "correct" you, tell them that your usage is governed by prosodic euphony rather than the petty pomposities of a preposterous and presumptuous prescriptivism.

  • It is quite complicated, though I can get sth from your explanation. Thanks!!! Yet, I just want to know how to distinguish btw utterance time and reference time. I find it hard to separate these two. Also, I feel confused with when u said u a not reporting the speech as in 2 and when u a reporting the speech as in 4. I hope u can clarify my doubt. – Jjang eu Jul 31 '15 at 3:48
  • Utterance time is when the speaker speaks. Reference time is the time he is talking about. In 2 I am reporting John's utterance--the actual words he spoke. "Next week" is part of John's utterance, not mine, so it refers to the week after his utterance time, not mine. In 4 I am reporting the substance of John's utterance, not his actual words, so the entire sentence is my utterance, not John's. My utterance time is now, my reference time is the time when John spoke, and the week I mention is the week after my reference time; I cannot use next week; I have to say the next week. – StoneyB Jul 31 '15 at 4:04
  • @Jjangeu I've added some stuff. – StoneyB Jul 31 '15 at 4:12
  • Ah, I see. Thus, can I draw a conclusion that " John said he would answer next week" is the same as "John said he would answer the following week" except the 1st one focuses on John's utterance time while the later focuses on my utterance when I report the speech? It seems like we start counting the day from when John spoke it until we report it. – Jjang eu Jul 31 '15 at 4:20
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Suppose Bob says on Monday, June 1, "I will be here next week." Bob means that he will be where he is talking now between June 8 and June 14. You leave and on June 8, you decide to report what Bob said. You have four transformations to make to keep your statement accurate.

  1. First person to third person, since you're not quoting Bob but talking about him. ("I" -> "he")
  2. Future tense to past tense. Bob was talking in the present time as he spoke about future time; You're talking about Bob's talking in the past about future time. ("will" -> "would")

  3. 3.Near to far. The place that Bob was talking about is not the place where you are now. ("here" -> "there")

  4. Updated time reference. When Bob was talking, the week of June 8 was the future he was talking about. The moving finger has written a week's worth, so you have to update the reference to June 8: ("next week" -> "this week")

Bob said that he1 would2 be there3 this4 week.

  • Thank you. Actually I got this point. I just don't understand the use of the following week. I have seen many websites stating that we change next week to the following week, not next week to this week. That is point m curious about. – Jjang eu Jul 31 '15 at 2:45
  • We use next week for present time and following week for the past or future. Reported speech based in the past so following week. – michael_timofeev Jul 31 '15 at 3:57

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