What are you doing next Friday? And what are your plans for this Friday? Will you do the same thing you did last Friday? And what’s the difference between these three Fridays, anyway?
English learners often struggle with next, this, and last, three adjectives that are used to describe plans, appointments, and events that happen on specific days of the week. Next and this are especially hard. But it’s possible to make mistakes with last too, particularly if you don’t fully understand how last relates to next and this.
We’ll start with the easiest weekday adjective. You probably already know that last refers to a weekday in the past. Be aware that last almost always refers to the immediate previous time that a specific weekday happened. For example, if it’s Wednesday right now, last Sunday would be three days ago.
I said that last almost always refers to an immediately previous specific weekday. There is an exception, however. Last is not usually used to describe yesterday. So if it’s Thursday right now, you probably wouldn’t refer to yesterday as last Wednesday. Instead, last Wednesday would more likely refer to two Wednesdays ago, or the day a week before yesterday.
Next can be a little bit harder than last. Many English students assume that next refers to the immediate next time a specific day of the week happens. This seems like it could be correct. After all, if you’re driving, the next turn is the turn you can immediately see and take. If you’re listening to someone talk, the next thing they say will be the thing you hear immediately.
However, when describing weekdays, next is not so immediate. This is a weird irregularity in English—when used to describe specific weekdays, next does not refer to the very next time the weekday will happen. Instead, next refers to the second time that a specific weekday occurs in the future.
If you found the paragraph above confusing, here’s an example: If it’s Friday, November 6, next Saturday would not be Saturday, November 7. Instead, next Saturday would be two Saturdays into the future, not just one. And f someone talks to you about next Saturday on Friday, November 6, they are referring to Saturday, November 14.
There is only one case in which you might use next to describe the very next time a weekday happens. You may do this if you are talking about a week from today. So if it’s Saturday, November 14, and a friend talks to you about next Saturday, they’re probably referring to Saturday, November 21, just one Saturday into the future.
This is probably the easiest “weekday” adjective to learn and master—but be careful not to get it confused with next when you speak or write.
This always refers to the immediate next time that a specific weekday will happen. So if it’s Monday, November 23, and you talk about this Wednesday, you’re talking about Wednesday, November 25. The only time you want to be careful about using this to refer to an immediate next weekday is if you are talking about tomorrow. If it’s Monday, November 23rd and you want to talk about Tuesday, November 24, saying this Tuesday sounds a little confusing. A fellow English speaker might have to stop and think for a moment to realize what you’re saying. Instead, it would be better to refer to the 24th simply as tomorrow.
Why this is important on the TOEFL… and in life
On the TOEFL, you will listen to a number of conversation audio tracks, both in Listening and in Integrated Speaking. In these conversations, it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about things they recently did, or future events they’re planning. Without a firm grasp on next, this, and last, TOEFL conversation tracks can be hard to follow and fully understand.
The importance of these words in life should be obvious. It’s hard to make plans with someone if you can’t understand which days are being discussed and agreed on. And it’s hard to update someone on things that have recently happened if you’re not using last correctly.
So read this post carefully and make sure you know these three words. I will also be putting up a Magoosh Comics review of this topic soon, maybe even as soon as this Wednesday. Stay tuned!