Imagine you are organizing a lunch and want to ask someone (your friend or sister, etc.) to come over and help you prepare the meal. Which one of the following words works properly in the self-made sentence below? For me they both work correctly:

  • Can you come over a bit early to help me with lunch?
  • Can you come over a bit earlier to help me with lunch?

2 Answers 2


Early means 'before a specified or expected time'.

earlier also means 'before a specified or expected time' and the specified or expected time can itself be an early time, in which case "earlier" means "more early". The reference time changes.

The meeting is at 7PM. Could you arrive early to help me set out chairs?

The meeting is at 7PM. Could you arrive an hour earlier to help me set out chairs?

Last week, you arrived at 6pm to help put out chairs for the 7pm meeting. Tomorrow, would you be able to arrive a little earlier, at 5:30, to help me set up the sound system too?


Early as adverb means before the usual or expected time; earlier means before the present time or before the time one is referring to.

So, the second sentence could be understood as asking to come before the present time. For example, if it's 10:00 AM when the question is asked, the other person could take you are asking to come a little earlier than 10:00 AM.

The exact meaning depends on the context, though. For example, in the following sentence, the meaning would be different.

Yesterday we met at 10:00 PM. Can you come over earlier, so we can go back home before my wife returns from work?

I would use early if I am talking of the usual time I do something, or I am talking of the expected time something should happen. For example, if I am talking to a co-worker, I could ask Can you come early, tomorrow? to ask if my co-worker can come earlier than the usual time he starts to work.

  • Kiamalaluno, your sentence "I would use early If I'm talking of the usual . . ." Seems to be odd to me. You are using 'would' with If I'm Instead of If I were/was, Please tell me what kind of sentence it is.
    – yubraj
    Nov 13, 2016 at 13:32
  • 1
    Your colleague usually arrives early at work, let's say 8.10 AM. What if you asked: Could you come a little earlier than usual? Then your colleague would arrive before 8.10 AM. That is how I understand the OP's second sentence. Your first explanation doesn't make sense. If it's now 10.00 AM and I call my co-worker to come earlier, how could they possibly come before 10.00 AM?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 13, 2016 at 14:03

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