English non-native speaker here.

Let's say I use "into" to define a specific moment/duration in time of something.

So I say:

He drank well into his forties.


I expect this to be completed into next week.

In both cases, would the reader assume as an initial reaction or in most cases, that the duration is INSIDE the timeframe given (he drank during his forties BUT NOT beyond, the project will be completed next week BUT NOT later)?

Or would the reader assume that the times given are not constrained and that the moments/durations could extend AFTER the times used? (As in "he drank during his forties AND beyond" or "the project will be completed by next week, or maybe the week after that one").

This is, in short: "into" refers, in general, to a BOUND time period/duration (when talking about the past or about the future), or to an UNBOUND time period?


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    I would take issue with your characterization that "into" can define a specific moment (I believe it is durational only), and therefore with your second example as being ungrammatical, as it uses a duration-based element ("into next week") to refer to a point-in-time event (a completion). – Hellion Nov 10 '17 at 17:37
  • ... Yes; you'd need 'This will take well into next week ...'. With 'He drank well into his forties', there is an understood deletion (until he was). // 'He drank well into his forties' sounds telic to me, whereas 'He was drinking well into his forties' is more accommodating of ', but I'm not sure whether he then stopped'. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 '17 at 17:59
  • It's true that "into" cannot be used for specific moments, but usually is written before a time period (week, quarter, year, etc...). That's the reason I used week: the project will be finished at some point during next week. My question is that "into" + time period will refer to a point INSIDE that time period and not BEYOND it. Am I right? – greguren Nov 10 '17 at 18:29
  • Your second example isn't correct. – jimm101 Nov 10 '17 at 22:32

Definition 3 from Merriam-Webster says:

—used as a function word to indicate a period of time or an extent of space part of which is passed or occupied • far into the night

Note that it says "part of which is passed"; it does not say "part or all". So the clear and normal meaning is, the activity does not extend beyond the timeframe specified. In short, yes, it normally imposes an upper boundary on the activity.

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In answer to your initial question- I believe "well into" would not go beyond the end of the provided time frame. To follow your examples- "well into his forties" would not extend into his fifties, nor would "well into next week" extend into the week beyond next.

An addendum to this question is that "well into" does not seem to have a universal sense of proportion, which surprised me. So it differs from the words "couple" meaning 2 and "several" meaning 3, which are relatively agreed upon vague words indicating amount. I presumed "well into" would extend beyond half of a proposed time frame, but the other definitions I read seemed to land closer to the less than half time frame. When I initially read "well into his forties" I presumed he would be 45+, but I found an article about a football player playing "well into his forties" meaning that he would be 42 at the end of his contract.

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  • Ok, but forget the "well", I don't even know why I wrote it. My point is"into + timeframe" refers to the specific timeframe, not beyond it. Yet another example: "this series will be finished into the first quarter of 2016". Would the speaker express the intention for the series to be finished IN the first quarter or after it? – greguren Nov 10 '17 at 18:30
  • I do not feel that this is a bad answer. But I do think a careful writer would distinguish between "into his forties" and "well into his forties." Of course, the counter-example given in the answer may merely suggest that most sports reporters are only semi-literate. – Jeff Morrow Nov 10 '17 at 18:32
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    @greguren "will be finished into the first quarter" is simply not grammatical. Hellion already made this point. The "into" construction refers to continuity, not completion. – Jeff Morrow Nov 10 '17 at 18:37
  • @greguren - This series runs into the first quarter of 2016. And now from our 2017 vantage point- This series ran into the first quarter of 2016. – Jim Nov 11 '17 at 2:07

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