Does within mean before or after? Or does it mean both? For example,

Do not drink or eat within an hour of these pills.

  • 3
    As in @JoeKearney's answer of "I want to live within five miles of the office", which means "within a radius of 5 miles", in this case I would interpret "don't eat or drink 1 hour before and after taking the pills". - Another interpretation would be: Nobody that is closer to these pills than an hour's walk/drive/flight is allowed to eat or drink ;).
    – malach
    Nov 26, 2010 at 12:53
  • 1
    Indeed, I would think the hour extends in both directions around the time of taking the pills. Nov 26, 2010 at 14:51

3 Answers 3


Within is a single word. In the sense of your example, it means something like during, or before the end of:

do not drink or eat during the hour before or the hour after you take these pills.

Consider also:

I want to have been promoted within a year of joining the company.

I want to live within five miles of the office.

Within the boundary of my lands, I am king.

See definition on Merriam-Webster.

Edited to point out that it applies to the hour before as well as the hour after. The other answer is better.

  • 2
    So, it does not mean that you have to wait for two hours in total, one before taking the pills, and one after taking the pills? Just confused!
    – user17857
    Nov 26, 2010 at 12:44
  • That's correct - it means you may not eat for an hour after taking the pills, but may do so beforehand. However, given the fact that digestion is not an instant process, I would err on the side of caution and take them on an empty stomach.
    – PyroTyger
    Nov 29, 2010 at 8:13
  • This answer is incorrect. Please see the answer below. Jan 10, 2014 at 9:58

do not drink or eat with in an hour of these pills

'Within' means inside some sort of time frame... so this sentence literally means that you must wait until an hour after eating before taking the pills, and must not eat until an hour after taking the pills.

In my experience, this is very usual advice - I don't think it was intended this way; it could mean you need to wait for an hour after eating before taking the pills, or it could mean that you have to wait for an hour after taking the pill to eat.

I would interpret it as the latter, but it isn't entirely clear.

  • 1
    ...or it could mean both at the same time. Nov 26, 2010 at 12:16
  • Actually, it ONLY means at the same time, not one or the other. However, given the subject matter, it is highly unlikely that the author was so ambivalent about when to take pills. As I said in my post, I suspect they meant the latter of the two alternatives.
    – CJM
    Nov 26, 2010 at 16:44
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    wait, I'm confused. You just said "it means both; as I said, it means the second." So which is it? (For what it's worth, my knee-jerk interpretation is that the within goes both ways, i.e. there's a two-hour time period when you're not supposed to eat or drink, and in the middle of said two hours, you need to swallow the pills.)
    – Marthaª
    Nov 26, 2010 at 22:50
  • It literally means within a 2hr time-frame, but I suspect it would not be intended that way. As I said in my comment, it is unlikely it was intended that way. Guidance for taking pills usually states before food or after food (for particular medical reasons), or nothing at all (i.e. take it when you want). It's is very unusual to advise taking pills either upto one hour before or upto 1 hour after taking food. Therefore, my guess is that the advice is to take the pills an hour before you eat.
    – CJM
    Dec 8, 2010 at 11:02

Example : I am going to reach Tokyo within an hour. specificaly says that it will takeme less than an hour or so to reach tokyo.