A teacher is saying to her students:

Between now and then, observe yourself. Bring in information. Be committed, constant and fair to each other.

Does it mean "in this time period"? or it means "sometimes"?

  • What has your research told you about this? – Tuffy May 23 '18 at 6:20
  • I think it refers to a "time period".... Does it? – Ariana May 23 '18 at 6:32
  • Has she not previously given a deadline for the class to carry out a task for pairs or groups to carry out some activity? So she has to mean “between now and” whatever deadline she has given. ‘Sometimes’ is the meaning of ‘now and then’ as a phrase on its own. – Tuffy May 23 '18 at 6:48
  • How could you doubt that meant “In the time period between now and then…” as opposed to "sometimes”, please? – Robbie Goodwin Jun 1 '18 at 22:17

"Between now and then" always means "in this time period". It never means "sometimes". The reason becomes apparent if you consider the dictionary meaning:


Adverb. Occasionally, rather than all of the time.

The teacher's instruction would be understood as meaning the task must be completed by the given date, i.e. by "then". However, the adverbs "sometimes" or "occasionally" don't have this time limitation: they're open-ended. "Sometimes" would include carrying out the task after the date or time specified by "then".

My bet is that if you didn't carry out the task before "then" (because you thought the teacher meant an open-ended "sometimes"), you will be in trouble with the teacher.

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  • True, but it should still be noted that 'do it between now and then' is ambiguous between 'keep doing it throughout the period between now and then' and 'do it sometime within the period before now and then'. It is possible that this is the ambiguity that the OP was troubled by, but that ambiguity can only be resolved by the context. – jsw29 Oct 6 '18 at 15:06

I think both are possible, it depends of your level of criteria, and by all means, on you levels of pragmática. I personally think that this means “sometimes”!

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  • Welcome to English Language & Usage! We like to see detailed explanations as answers, with links to authoritative references to support the answer. Can you explain why you think it means "sometimes"? – Roger Sinasohn Sep 6 '18 at 6:16

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