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I understood that:

  • "last but one" means: one item before the last one (e.g. "Marta lives in the last house but one" means she lives in one house before the last one)
  • "next but one" means: one item next to the one (e.g. "Marta lives in the next house but one" means she lives the house after the next one)

but what if I have a graduated scale of values and I want to refer to the next and the next but one bigger values bigger than a specified value X?

E.g. I have a 10 mm hole in the whole. I wanna drill it to make it bigger. I have two tools with 20 and 30 mm diameter.

  • "To make the hole 20 I have to use the next tool bigger than the hole"(?)
  • "To make the whole 30 I have to use the next but one tool bigger then the hole"(?)
  • Yes. Why do you think those don't work? – Andrew Leach Aug 29 '17 at 11:22
  • I am not a native speaker and I had no confirmation, nor I found any example an the web. Good to know it! Thx ;) – drSlump Aug 29 '17 at 12:20
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    The 'next size up/down' is idiomatic. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 29 '17 at 13:06
  • @EdwinAshworth for the 20 it would be 'next size up', for the 30 (and assuming the 20 had already been referred to) it would be 'the next size up again'. – Spagirl Aug 29 '17 at 13:16
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This could make for some entertaining talk, like "Who's On First" but is not the right way to put it.

The "next" of "next house but one" cannot be reliably used outside of the phrase itself unless you are hoping to confuse the carpenter.

Also putting it as a modifier to bigger or smaller confounds the intended meaning. The phrases "next tool but one" allow a phrase to be more compact. These are less and less useful the more complex you meaning gets.

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