the difference between words: within and over

fy2014-budget-graph-ftes

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!

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