In the following context:

You will be called within 1 to 2 hours

Does "within" imply between 1 and 2 hours? Or anytime from now, until 2 hours?

  • 3
    At least one, no more than two. – Bookeater Jan 24 '17 at 16:49
  • 10
    Now until 2 hours, with higher probability of between 1 hour and 2 hours from now. – Jim Jan 24 '17 at 16:50
  • 1
    Like @Jim said, it does not specifically say that it will be no sooner than 1 hour. – Hank Jan 24 '17 at 16:54
  • 1
    It's ambiguous as to whether the call will be within the timespan now until between 1 and 2 hours from now, or within the timespan 1 hour from now until 2 hours from now. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 24 '17 at 17:29
  • Depending on who said it, it could be anytime, including never. You have to stay ready to accept the call, and you have to be prepared to call them back several more times before they deign to call back to you. – ab2 Jan 24 '17 at 19:20

The phrase means:

You may perhaps be called within an hour. You will definitely be called within two hours.

There is no implication that your being called within one hour is any more likely than your being called between one and two hours.

Or to put it more cynically: the sentence boils down to this.

If you are not called within an hour, you will be called within two.

Since the frame within two hours by itself includes within one hour, the explicit statement of the latter is superfluous. It's probably in there just to give you a false hope that the wait won't be as long as it is likely to be.

It's like when you're running late coming home for dinner and you call your spouse to say:

Sorry, babycakes, I got held up at the office. I'll be home in an hour, two hours tops.

That gives your spouse the feeling that you are going to try to be home by the earlier time (one hour) while still giving you the wiggle room to stop by your paramour's for a quickie en route, since what you've explicitly promised is just the later (two hours).

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  • So there is an implication that you’ll be home closer to the two hour mark than within the hour. It would be a “false hope” to expect you within the hour.. – Jim Jan 24 '17 at 18:28
  • @Jim well, it's more like there's plausible deniability that I'll be home closer to an hour. So I'd say it doesn't imply that I'll be home closer than the two hour mark; it impies that I won't necessarily be home closer to the one hour mark. – verbose Jan 25 '17 at 2:40

From a native speaker:

I may be in the minority here, but within 1 to 2 hours tells me between now and one hour, and at the most between now and two hours. Within does not refer to the range between the one and two hour mark, but to the period inside now and before one hour is over, and certainly before two hours is over.

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  • 1
    I agree with you. But if they thought they’d call you for sure within the one hour period they wouldn’t need to add the “or two” at all. By adding the two they are saying they need a wider window in order to increase the liklihood of keeping their promise. – Jim Jan 24 '17 at 18:32

The highest time frame within which you will be called is 2 hours. But you can also be called within an hour or an hour and a half or before completion of two hours from the present time. This is it.

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