Next Saturday

Today, Saturday 30th March, I realized it´s better to double-check my classes arrangements with students using both languages if needed (first and foreign language). I had scheduled a lesson with three students at 10 am only to find out, when the time arrived, that the class wasn´t today but “next Saturday”.
What do people actually understand by “next”? What´s the difference between “this”, “next” and “the following”? This seems to be an issue which isn´t only confusing for foreign speakers of English but for native speakers as well. It´s something which is even to do with personal interpretations and preferences and, what´s more important, it appears to be context-related.
So, let´s take a close look at their differences and at the sources of ambiguity. If today was Monday 11th and I wanted to refer to Wednesday 13th, I would say “this Wednesday”/”this coming Wednesday”, but if it was Saturday 15th and I was referring to Wednesday 19th , then I would more likely say “next Wednesday”. Therefore, the main difference, in this case, seems to be the number of days in between and whether they belong to the current week or the next. However, a great number of people would still use “next” to refer to days which belong to the current week. In fact, some dictionary entries define “next” as:
1) Immediately following, as in time, order, or sequence ( The American Heritage Dictionary 4th ed. )
2) (usually with the) coming straight after somebody/something in time, order or space (Oxford Advanced Learner´s Dictionary)
3) being the first one after the present one or after the one just mentioned. (Cambridge Advanced Learner´s Dictionary)
Hence, this dilemma seems to boil down to our personal interpretation of time and time references. Going back to my anecdote, I would have understood my students’ meaning correctly if they had said ” the following Saturday” or “the Saturday after next”. This same ambiguity is a source of misunderstanding in Spanish as “el próximo sábado” means “this coming Saturday”, i.e. the Saturday from this current week, for some people but others refer to “el próximo sábado” as the Saturday from next week.
To conclude, it is always a good idea to check understanding in any conversation, especially those involving meetings/ class arrangements :).

There are some more articles about confusing expressions here.

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