7

I have been wondering, how do most English speakers count weeks and months?

Do they count them as "week=7 days" or "week=1 calendar week", "month=30 days" or "month=1 calendar month"?

For example, you started living somewhere on 5 January 2017 now it is 20 January 2017. What would be the more normal answer?

I have been living here for 2 weeks (about 14 days passed)

or

I have been living here for 3 weeks (this is the 3rd calendar week)

Another example:

What have you been doing for the last two weeks?

Should I understand it as

14 days from now back (not including today)

or

Two calendar weeks

and if it's two calendar weeks, which two weeks? This current week which is not over yet + last week, OR full last week + the week before last week?

Thank you, please try to explain this to me it is driving me nuts.

I forgot the usage as well in my own language, so thinking about it as I would use it in my native language will not help me much :/

Please, this is no joke, I am serious about this and I feel VERY SAD that I do not know the proper usage.

  • I was going to ask, how do you do it in your own language? I know you say you "forgot" but never mind any "official" rule, what is the most natural response? – Andrew Jan 30 '17 at 16:23
12

There is no hard rule here. People can and do use both methods.

In casual speech people will frequently count by whole weeks, and round up. The listener will accept the ambiguity, as a precise count of days is probably unimportant.

But if there is reason to emphasize the precise number of days that have past, you can give a number of days instead.

In some instances, people will give a number of hours covering multiple days (e.g., "in the last 36 hours/48 hours/72 hours I have been doing X.") if they want to put even more emphasis on the passing of time.

  • Hmm. I'm not sure I'd say "I've been living here two months" if I'd started living somewhere on, say, the 15th of January, and it were now the 28th of February. I mean, rounding and approximation is one thing, but I would suggest the "about 60 days have passed" interpretation is much more realistic for this particular example. – Muzer Jan 30 '17 at 17:08
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    @Muzer I think it all depends on context. If I was just chatting with someone, I could see myself saying "2 months" for your case. Mainly because getting up to 6 or 7 weeks, remembering dates and counting time that way becomes cumbersome. Although if I knew I'd arrived on the 15th and it was now the end of the month, I'd probably say "a month and a half." – relaxing Jan 30 '17 at 17:24
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    I also probably would say "a month and a half" for the January 15 - Feb. 28 example in most cases, but one edge case there would be if you've done some monthly thing twice (like, "I've been paying rent there for two months"). – Paul Jan 30 '17 at 18:05
  • Another way of avoiding rounding is "2 weeks and change", which is idiomatic at the very least in West Coast American English. I haven't had issues being understood on the East Coast of the USA either, so it may be more widespread. – Morgen Jan 30 '17 at 22:09
9

As your answer hints, after two weeks have elapsed, we can look at this in one of two ways. We can either indicate how long you have been living there:

I have been living here for two weeks.

or else we can say it with a more forward-looking slant:

I'm entering into my third week of living here.

However we would not say:

I have been living here for three weeks.

because that wording generally implies how much time has already gone by since the time when the event happened.

Similarly, if a tennis match started at noon, and the fifth set is just getting underway at 2PM, we can say:

This match has gone on for two hours now.

or:

This match is entering its third hour.

2

7 days = 1 week

So 14 days = 2 weeks

Yes, you would say

I have been living here for 2 weeks now.

It is the amount of time that has passed since you arrived.

Kind of related, but only tangentially; you could also say

I have been living here for a fortnight now.

(a fortnight means two weeks)

  • 5
    I would only use "fortnight" in UK English. In the US it sounds archaic :) – relaxing Jan 30 '17 at 16:25
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    Sorry, I'm British, so I use it frequently :) – Michael Curry Jan 30 '17 at 16:26
  • That bit about fortnight only works after two weeks. Had the OP's question asked "Is it four weeks or five?" instead of "Is it three weeks or two?", then it wouldn't be related at all. But it's nice that you got to slip that in there. – J.R. Jan 30 '17 at 16:34
  • Added a bit of clarification – Michael Curry Jan 30 '17 at 16:36
2

The context here is very important and dictates what is implied by each variation.

For example, in a casual context, say you're catching up with a friend, the exact number of days doesn't matter, and in fact someone would be much more likely to say

a couple weeks

or

a couple weeks or so

which means approximately 14 days.

It seems hard to imagine someone in this context caring whether you mean 12 days or 15 days when you're talking about how you've been. Or whether it happened two calendar weeks ago or two weeks ago from today.

If you're in a work context and someone asks you on a Thursday

What have you been working on for the last two weeks?

You can be pretty confident that they mean the previous calendar week as well as the current calendar week because that's traditionally how businesses account for work, by calendar weeks.

However, if they ask that same question on a Monday, you may assume that they are asking about the previous two calendar weeks not including the one you're in, simply because you've had no time this week to do any work yet.

If you moved here exactly 14 days ago, you might say

I've been living here for two weeks

Or even

I've been living here for exactly two weeks

Which denotes a sort of 2 week anniversary.

If you moved here slightly more or less than 14 days ago, you might say

I've been living here for a couple weeks

or

I've been living here for about two weeks

Basically the context will dictate the specificity, and if it's casual English, the likelihood is that someone will not be looking for specifics unless they ask.

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