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This question touched on the confusion of the common usage of "next Tuesday" to really mean "Tuesday of next week", as opposed to the "soonest upcoming Tuesday". When one considers the actual definition of next, this phrasing is simply wrong. I'm rather baffled how this phrasing came about. To make things stranger, this is the only instance in which next is used with this definition.

How did next come to mean the Tuesday of next week when used in sentences such as "What are we doing next Tuesday?"

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    The question you linked to answers this in the accepted answer. "Next" means next week and not next day. Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 18:38
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    @Mr.Shiney The accepted answer does not answer my question. I'm asking how this meaning came about, not what it means. It is about the etymology, not the definition.
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 18:50
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    Does something with a clear meaning need an etymology besides "I said it, and it was clear?" Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 18:51
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    Of course it does. Not to mention that although the meaning is clear, it doesn't make any sense given the technical definition of the word. I'm asking how this second definition came about, which is a perfectly valid question.
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 18:57
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    It seems to me that the specific example of "next Tuesday" (or "Tuesday next," which I take to be interchangeable) is unhelpfully limiting, because the only case in which it would be unclear is if it were to be used on a Monday (in which case it might mean the "next day that is a Tuesday," i.e., tomorrow; or "the Tuesday of next week," which would be a week from tomorrow). Anytime after Monday that this phrase is used it will mean both at the same time. (cont.)
    – user14525
    Commented Nov 4, 2011 at 18:52

3 Answers 3

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This use of next Tuesday to mean Tuesday of next week is fairly old, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. They include examples under the definition:

Applied (without preceding the) to days of the week, with either the current day or (in later use; orig. Sc.) the current week as the implicit point of reference. Thus (for example) next Friday may mean ‘the soonest Friday after today’ or ‘the Friday of the coming week’. The latter may be indicated contextually, e.g. by contrast with this, but it is not always clear which meaning is intended

a1592 R. Greene Frier Bacon (1594) sig. B, Thou knowst next friday is S. Iames, And then the country flockes to Harlston faire.

So the use of next --day came after 1592. However, there is another use of next with a weekday that predates this:

c1390 Chaucer Miller's Tale 3518 Now a Monday next, at quarter nyght, Shal falle a reyn.

There is also this:

c1230 (1200) Ancrene Riwle (Corpus Cambr.) (1962) 211 Ȝef‥ȝe ne beon nawt ihuslet i þeose isette tearmes, beoð hit þe neste [a1250 Nero nexte] sunne dei.

Having traced back the references in the OED, it is possible that the form next --day is a fairly original structure. Next has been used to mean "Designating the time, season, etc., following directly after one described, spoken of, etc." in both early and late Old English.

The OED does note that next with a weekday is:

Applied (without preceding the) to days of the week, with either the current day or (in later use; orig. Sc.) the current week as the implicit point of reference.

So next Tuesday originally meant the Tuesday after whatever day today is, but there is no clear notation of when the additional meaning was added. The use of Tuesday after this current week was noted in the OED as being used by 1711.

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  • Very interesting. I was unaware this usage of next was that old; I thought it was more recent then that.
    – Wipqozn
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 21:36
  • @Wipqozn--I thought it would be more recent too. If you'd like more examples/use, I can provide them (for example, the Old English sentences)
    – user10893
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 21:38
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    I don't really understand why this question is being asked again, since it was all covered by the earlier one. But I do think it's important to note that there is no consensus as to exactly when "this xxxday" becomes "next xxxday". Individual speakers may well be consistent, but in the world at large that simply isn't true. Apart from anything else, there's not even consensus on which day marks the start of a week, and many people's definitions of "next xxxday" depend on whether the day in question is in "this" week or "next", and/or what day it is today. Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 22:19
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Why did English start doing this? See simchona's wonderfully detailed history of this linguistic convention.

Why does English keep doing this? This convention is sustainable because if you want to refer to the Tuesday of this week, you simply say "Tuesday" or "this Tuesday". Conversely, if you go to the trouble of saying "next Tuesday" I understand that you're explicitly not describing the Tuesday of this week.

PS. "Next Tuesday couldn't be the same as this Tuesday, you know."

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  • There's no real need for a "This" Tuesday, some other languages don't have it. As explained many times already the issue is: when does the week (re-)start / when exactly does "next" become "this".
    – MarcH
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 21:32
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My supervisor and I just made such a misunderstanding today. He interpreted “next Tuesday” as the (1) nearest coming Tuesday while I interpreted it as (2) the Tuesday of the next week. His native language is Dutch, and my native language is Chinese. I also asked another person whose native language is Dutch and he agreed to the first interpretation. But in Chinese, I would say definitely everyone agrees to the second interpretation. When I did a rough search through the English forums today, my conclusion is that most English users also agree with this second interpretation, which is described as the old-fashioned usage by the OED.

So from a language/culture point of view, maybe Dutch speakers prefer (1). The Dutch word for "next" is "volgende", which probably is closer to the meaning of "the following; which comes directly after", so they prefer (1) (I cannot be sure of this as I'm not learned in Dutch). In Chinese, the literal translation of "next Tuesday" is "next-week's-day-4" (where people usually count from Monday as 1), so we would combine the "next" with "week" together. Thus, we prefer (2), day of next week.

Back to English grammar. I would say English is for sure more similar to Dutch than to Chinese. But still, English users tend to favor interpretation (2), day of next week, as well. My explanation is that, "next" is a restrictive modifier in "next Tuesday". Since there is only one Tuesday in any one calendar week, we prefer this restrictive modifier explanation, and the word "next" actually applies to modify the upper level of "Tuesday", that is, it is the week that shall be the next, and we draw the Tuesday from this week. So this should also extend to "next June" = "June of next year". This practice makes English more efficient, since "next Tuesday" uses fewer letters than "Tuesday of next week"; and for the Tuesday of this week, the efficient counterpart is still defined, "this Tuesday". (Actually another tricky thing is, we omit the definite article "the" before "next" -- I'm not sure whether this plays a role in the meaning here.)

However, if the modified word is not the only one in the cycle/upper level, we tend to think that "next" modifies this word itself. Eg, "the next student" does not mean the student from the next classroom, "next chapter" doesn't mean the chapter from the next book.

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  • I'm not sure what you're actually saying, Chad. The bottom line is that usage is divided (at least in the UK) (and in my immediate family: we have to mention the date). Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 17:51

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