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Galimatias Blog

How to be on time?

Kirjoittanut: Rytkönen Claire / 20.11.2019 13:41

- Guidelines for good use of time expressions

Did you know that to “move something back” in English means to move it ahead, further away? How do you know for sure when your meeting will take place? Have a look at our blog and short animation and learn the secrets of time expressions in English in order to be on time.

Some time expressions in English can be tricky. Have a look at the following example:

Today is Tuesday Sept 12th and your English colleague writes in an email:
”Can we bring the meeting one week forward to next Wednesday?”

When was the original meeting?
A) Wednesday 6th September
B) Wednesday 13th September
C) Wednesday 20th September
D) Wednesday 27th September
The correct answer is: D) Wednesday 27th September

The problem for Finns is that English speakers can have a different interpretation of what ”next”, ”this”, ” last ”, ”moving forward in time ”, or ”moving backward in time” means. 

Click here to check our video - a great introduction to this topic!

In English the first example of something coming up is ”this” and the following example is
”next”. However if the event is the first example and very far in the future, ”next” can also be used.  While looking backwards the first example in the past can be this” and the previous example can be ”last”.

For example:

In summer 2018 John holidayed in Croatia with his family.
In summer 2019 John went hiking with his family in Lapland.
In summer 2020 John will go to Disneyworld with his family.

If in September 2019 Sirpa says to John ” What did you do last summer?”
John will answer ” I went to Croatia with my family”
f in September  2019 Sirpa asks ” What did you do this summer?”
John will answer ”We went hiking in Lapland”
If in September  2019  Sirpa asks ” What will you do this/next summer?
John will answer ”We are going to Disneyland”

Another confusion is that to an English speaker rescheduling is also viewed differently. Therefore:
Bring forward in time = ” siirtää aiemmin” (towards the speaker)
”Can we bring the meeting forward one week?” = "Voimmeko aikaistaa kokousta viikolla?"

And ”move back in time”  = siirtää myöhemmin (away from the speaker)
”Can we move the meeting back one week =  ”Voimmeko siirtää kokouksen viikkoa myöhemmin?”

So if today is Tuesday Sept 12th and your English colleague writes in an email:
”Can we bring the meeting one week forward to next Wednesday?”
a) He means that the new meeting is in 8 days (not this Wednesday 13.9 but ”next” Wednesday 20.9.) 
The new meeting is one week earlier than the original (”move back one week” ) so minus  7 days from the original meeting Wed 27.9 = Wednesday 20.9

Time expressions are complicated and open to confusion. How can you avoid confusion when discussing scheduling with English speakers?

Follow these guidelines and examples:
A bad example of scheduling
Next Monday in week 48 at 8.

A good example of scheduling
On Monday 26.11.2018/November 26th 2018 at 7pm/19.00

Rules to remember
  • Always specify using dates and clock times.
  • Also use the name of the month when contacting someone outside Europe to avoid the confusion between British and American English.(British Christmas 25.12 / American Christmas 12.25)
  • Use pm/am if not using 24 hours clock time.
  • Don’t use numbered weeks such as ” week 48” – use dates, eg. from 26.11 – 30.11
  • Never rely on words like ”next”, ”last”, ”this”.
  • If you receive a schedule relying on words such as ”next”, ”last”, ”this” – do ask for clarification!

Would you be interested in learning more? Take a look at our special offer!

Aiheet: englannin kieli, English, time expressions, ajan määreet, grammar, move back time, rules of thumb, kielioppi, bring forward time

Rytkönen Claire

Kirjoittajana Rytkönen Claire

English language professional, Head of English at Galimatias


Galimatias on vuonna 1996 perustettu valmennusyritys, joka tarjoaa palveluja yrityksille, organisaatioille ja julkishallinnolle.

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