Example (audio):

Let's do a search. And let's pick the one that's closest to me. We'll put a check mark next to that. And click on "next". And now I select my date. I recommend that you try to schedule your exam at least a month out. And the reason I say that is sometimes testing centers are very busy. It's difficult to get in tomorrow or this week or next week sometimes. Things tend to book up. So, let's go a ways out. Let's say I want to register for October 15. I can select a time. I'll say 9 AM. Once I select a time, I click on "select appointment". It says my appointment is selected.

What can you tell me about the use of out in these two examples?

2 Answers 2


Out here is a spatial metaphor.

We say things like "He lives a mile out of town", measuring how far from town he lives. We extend this only a little in expressions like "We stopped sixty miles out of Omaha", measuring the distance we still had to go before reaching Omaha, or the distance we had travelled from Omaha before stopping; and from that use it's a very short step to "We stopped an hour out of Omaha", measuring the temporal 'distance'—the amount of time it would take or took to cover that distance.

In your example, there's no question of measuring the time after the exam—you can't very well schedule an exam that's already happened!—so the expression "a month out" means that you should schedule your exam at least a month before you take it.

And "let's go a ways out" means "let's select a date well after the present". (A ways means "at a [considerable] distance". The apparent plural ways is actually a colloquial linguistic fossil, left over from a time when the genitive was used to cast a noun or adjective as an adverb—compare always, twice.)


The basic meaning of out is "Away from a centre", but as with many common words there are hundreds of shades of meaning.

"A month out" means "afterwards" http://www.thefreedictionary.com/out (sense 13). Figuratively, "a month out" is on month away from the central time (the date that was checked)

"A ways out", is a transcription of spoken English (and feels like a dialect to me, not certain which one) It suggests "some long time afterwards")

The quoted text reads like a transcription of spoken English. Notice the repeated sentences starting "And"

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