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Context: Person is asking for information in an email, and uses the following sentence: "I do not expect an answer as soon as tomorrow."

Is it the same as "not later than tomorrow end of the day"?

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  • It is unspecific. It definitely means "not today".
    – Mick
    Nov 15, 2017 at 10:02
  • It's an unusual turn of phrase and feels clumsy. I'm a native English speaker and have never heard it before. Is the person that wrote it a native English speaker?
    – Stormcloud
    Nov 15, 2017 at 15:29
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    @Stormcloud It doesn't sound clumsy to me (Southern AmE). "When will my package arrive?" / "You can expect it as soon as tomorrow (or as late as next week)." also sounds fine.
    – trent
    Nov 15, 2017 at 15:44
  • Interpretation requests (criticism, discussion, analysis, and divining the author’s intent) are out of scope and may be removed. This applies to all English texts and utterances, song lyrics, poetry, and legal documents. See: “What topics can I ask about here? - Help Center”. If there is an unstated specific concern, such as “What does (word) mean in context?” or “How does (grammar or punctuation rule) apply in context?” ask that question instead. Also check out the Literature Stack Exchange.
    – MetaEd
    Nov 15, 2017 at 16:17
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    @trentcl, it seems perfectly natural in the affirmative sense "it could be here as soon as tomorrow" for example. The negated version does seem strange though "I do not expect an answer by tomorrow" seems like a smoother phrasing. Nov 15, 2017 at 18:18

2 Answers 2

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If someone simply said

I don't expect an answer tomorrow

that could mean he expects he might get an answer today, or the day after tomorrow, or later than that, or not at all. It isn't necessarily a statement about how quickly he expects the answer. Possibly he knows the person who he is expecting an answer from does not work tomorrow (if in a business context). He might then plan his own activities for tomorrow on the assumption that he does not need to be available to receive the answer.

If he says

I don't expect an answer as soon as tomorrow

then he means he is not expecting an answer today or tomorrow. It might be the day after tomorrow, later in the week, next week, or later still, or possible never.

In the OPs example of an email asking for information and saying

I do not expect an answer as soon as tomorrow

means that the person expects that the answer will not come until the day after tomorrow at the earliest. This is a polite way of indicating that the request is not urgent and the person asking the question understands that the other person may be busy. Of course, if the answer does come tomorrow, or even today, then that is fine, but after tomorrow is also ok.

The person hasn't said when he does expect an answer but doesn't expect it will be today or tomorrow. If it is from a manager it is also a way of saying not to drop what else you are doing, because this question is relatively low priority.

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  • +1 Normally I'd say "back it up with research", but a quick google has failed to show any dictionaries supporting this meaning of "soon" or "as soon as". The best I've found are a few forums where "as soon as" is described as a near synonym to "as early as"; the latter phrase actually being described by dictionaries.
    – AndyT
    Nov 15, 2017 at 12:29
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    @AndyT a similar expression is "children as young as 5" or "prices as low as a pound" but these seem to be different in nuance as they convey a sense of surprise that that the children are so young and the prices so cheap. That nuance doesn't seem to me present here though.
    – davidlol
    Nov 15, 2017 at 12:39
  • It could mean that it is not urgent. It could also mean that they expect that coming up with an answer and composing a response might take considerable time.
    – Arthur
    Nov 15, 2017 at 13:41
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    @davidlol interestingly if you take "I could get an answer for you as soon as tomorrow", for example, this element of surprise would be retained - that is, you're emphasising that tomorrow is pretty soon for an answer for such a question.
    – Muzer
    Nov 15, 2017 at 14:37
  • @Muzer I see what you mean, yes. Maybe it is the negation in OPs example that removes the implication of surprise?.
    – davidlol
    Nov 15, 2017 at 22:16
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I understand the sentence as: [Person is asking you, the poster here, for information] "You do not need to send me an answer today or tomorrow." i.e. it is not urgent.

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    Thanks! I've edited the question. The point is, I received that sentence via email and do not know how to interpret it. Is it like the answer needs to be provided latest tomorrow OR I may provide it even after tomorrow? Nov 15, 2017 at 12:08

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