Archive for February, 2014

the difference between words: within and over


Some of my students have a slight misunderstanding about the words “within” and “over” when talking about a future time, so that is what I’d like to write about today.

Sometimes, especially in business English, we say something like “We want to do that within the next five years.” or “We want to do that over the next five years.” However, there is an important difference between these two sentences.

When we say “within the next five years”, and it’s now 2014, it means that the thing will be finished in 2019 or before. It could be accomplished at any time between now and 2019. However, when we say “over the next five years”, it means that that thing will be finished in 2019 and NOT before then. It will take the entire five years to complete it.

Here are some more examples of how to use “within” and “over”.

I’ll probably be able to finish my project within the next two weeks.

Within ten years, I think Bill will become the manager of his department.

We were able to prepare the presentation within one week.

My company plans to expand into the Asian market over the next four years.

I will study French over the next six months because I will be transferred to our Paris branch next year.

We did a study over six months about what types of shampoo people in this city like to use.

As you can see from my examples, we can use “within” and “over” in the past tense or the future tense, but when we use “within” in the past tense, it means we don’t know exactly how much time it took.

When using these words in the future, it’s very common to put “the next” in the sentence, but this is not necessary.

I hope everyone will have a great weekend!

grammatical word: vis-a-vis


In this post, I’d like to talk about the term “vis-a-vis” because I received a request about this from one of my readers.

This word or term comes originally from French, and in that language it basically means “opposite” or “facing”. It can also mean “towards” or “with respect to”. This is because the word “vis” comes from “visage” which, in French, means the “face” of something or someone.

We have borrowed this word into English, but in our language we focus on the meaning which is “with respect to”.  Another way to say this is “with regards to”. Here are some examples of how to use it.

I really didn’t like Gordon’s comments vis-a-vis the new company dress code.

What are we going to do vis-a-vis the problems down at the factory?

I’m writing this letter to you vis-a-vis your complaint about the service you received in our store.

Please note that “vis-a-vis” is a very formal expression and is not often used in English, except usually in formal business or academic situations. Even then, it can seem a bit pretentious to some people because it comes from French.

Also, please be aware that the pronunciation of this is /vee za vee/.

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