Example: If you have not yet reached exit number 5 is the "next exit" referring to exit 5 or exit 6? "This exit" is clearly exit 5.
Similar to the "next Tuesday" question Which day does "next Tuesday" refer to?
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I would take "next exit" to always mean the first exit you come to after this point - in other words, junction 5 in your example.
The only exception is if someone made the distinction really clear, by saying something like "not this exit but next exit". But that would only make sense if you were already passing, or very close to passing, the current exit.
I agree with Waggers.
The trick with highways is that you're moving fast. If you compare this with sitting at a stop sign and you say, "It's next left", I would presume that it would not be "this left" (at your current location) but the succeeding one.
On a highway, though, you are only at the location of an exit for a short period of time. So, if the sign says "this exit", it would have to be at location of the exit rather than preceding the exit.
So, if the sign says "next exit", it generally refers to the next possible exit.
As a side note, anytime I hear "next weekend", it always turns into a discussion. ("Do you mean two days from now or nine days from now?")
"Next" always refers to something that you are not able to choose right now. "This" always refers to whatever you can choose right now. The confusion arises because there may or may not be a this or a next (whatever) at any particular moment. And if things are changing fast, as on the highway, "next" can become "this" while you are debating it, or "this" can become "you just missed it" while someone was puzzling out your usage. I disagree that "this Friday" only has meaning if it is Friday. It means: the Friday that is not in question. Next Friday means, the one after that, just like next exit means, the one after this exit. If there is not a "this" at the present moment (hard to imagine with a day of the week) then it gets confusing. For a day or two after the weekend, "this weekend" actually refers to the weekend that just passed, as in: "What did you do this weekend?" Or: "it must be this exit" as you pass the point of being able to choose it.
Generally "next exit" means the next one you encounter, even if it's coming up in half a mile. The exception is if a single sign is conveying information about the upcoming exit and the one after that, e.g. "Sometown 1/2 mile, next exit 75 miles" (meaning you might want to get gas now). I see this more with rest stops than with exits, though.
As already post by others the next exit is exit number 5.
The confusion arises for the day of the week because each day belongs to a particular week, and it makes good sense to speak in terms of this or next week.
Hence "this week" means the current week and "next week" means the one following.
People tend to extend this meaning to apply to days as well. Hence they feel there is a need to qualify, for example, the Friday coming up as "this Friday" (meaning Friday this week) rather than the correct "next Friday".
The term "this Friday" makes no sense unless it is already Friday.