common errors in English

Passing the time

Sounding natural and fluent when talking about time can be a bit of a challenge, not least because conventions vary depending on where you are. If you’re in the US and talking about the previous Saturday, you might well say this past Saturday, but you wouldn’t say that in the UK: here it would be last Saturday or even the Saturday just gone. Similarly, we say a week tomorrow, so if it’s Thursday today, then we mean next Friday. Strictly speaking, we’re saying ‘in eight days’ time’, and when we say a fortnight tomorrow, we mean ‘in 15 days’ time’. In Spanish, they say exactly that (‘hoy en ocho’, ‘hoy en quince’) but if you were to simply translate directly into English it would sound very stilted and unnatural. So although the idea behind it may be the same, the expression is very different.

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Sharon Creese

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