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Growing up in the 1980s in New York City, I understood a plain "later" to mean "later in the same day", as in the examples below. As an adult, I lived in St. Louis, met people from many more places, and participated in online fora, and understand it to mean "any time later, even not the same day". Is the difference temporal (1980s versus 2000s and 2010s)? geographical (New York versus the rest of the United States, or something)? some combination of those? something else? Perhaps the "later the same day" meaning was just my own idiolect?


Examples:

I should note that this applies only to the future tense, and not to sentences like "Later, he returned home, only to find" or "he later passed away from the same disease", both of which mean any time later, not necessarily the same day, even to 1980s me.

  • Can I come by later?
  • What are you doing later?
  • See you later!
  • I can look it up later.
  • Remind me later.

I should note also that my memories of 1980s me's English may well be cloudy.

  • in conversation, especially around scheduling or planning, it usually implies the same day: a:"later?" b: "no, later this week maybe.". More abstractly, "I'll do it later" means about anytime. You have to consider the activity: mowing the lawn vs retiring for example. – dandavis Mar 26 '18 at 23:08
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    The first two examples I expect to be same day. The others could be any time. – Jim Mar 26 '18 at 23:11
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    Here in the UK, I've noticed a tendency in recent decades for young people to say "See you later" to mean "Goodbye", though to me it implies an expectation of meeting again the same day. It has sometimes amused me when a much younger man I've spoken to in the context of work has said "See you later" as though we had a date for that evening! – Kate Bunting Mar 27 '18 at 8:10

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