There is sometimes disagreement among English speakers when labelling days in a sequence with this and next, and you may hear people say either this or next to refer to the coming day. If you study sequences of time more carefully, it can help you to understand why this is, and how you can clarify what an English speaker means by, for example “This Friday” or “Next Friday.”
Next usually refers to the following object in a sequence, for instance “The next bus leaves in 10 minutes.” This usually refers to an object that is immediately occurring, or can be seen. So when the bus is in sight, we could say “This bus looks crowded. Let’s get the next bus.”
For days, this causes confusion because the day is not an object that we can see coming in the same way as a bus. So for many people next Friday would refer to the coming Friday. However, this is actually a less common use – and normally next Friday means the Friday in the following week. Consider these two sentences:
1. It is Sunday the 4th of March. Next Friday will be the 7th. (The coming Friday)
2. It is Sunday the 4th of March. Next Friday will be the 14th. (In the next week)
You may find English speakers using both these meanings, often depending on regional uses. So which is more correct, and how should you commonly understand these expressions? Actually the second sentence is more common, and for many English speakers more logical – because the coming Friday is usually referred to as this Friday.
To understand why, it is easiest to consider that this should be used when the sequence is already taking place. Consider how we refer to parts of a day – we say this morning, this afternoon and this evening when the day has begun, even if it is not yet morning, afternoon or evening.The next afternoon would come in the next day (i.e. tomorrow). Similarly, this Friday is part of this week (the week we are in). So when we say next Friday it does not refer to the coming Friday, but the Friday of next week.
Using this logic, for days, this should refer to the day coming in the next 6 days (this week), while next should refer to the day in the next 7-13 days (the next week). Note, this should not be used on the day before, or on the day itself, when we would use tomorrow or today (but continue to use next for the following Friday).
To go back to our example:
It is Sunday the 4th of March. This Friday is the 7th. Next Friday is the 14th.
Today is Sunday the 4th of March, next Sunday is the 11th.
This is a common, and logical, way to describe days in the coming weeks. Still, many English speakers do interpret next differently, and us it to simply mean the coming day. If you have any doubt about whether someone means the coming Friday, or the Friday of the following week, you can ask them to clarify:
Do you mean the coming Friday, or Friday next week?
As there is debate over how to use these expressions, such a question would not be considered strange or unwelcome. In fact, being aware of this point and recognising that the terms may be used differently (which is not always clear to English speakers themselves) may help you to understand English speakers better than they understand each other.