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According to Oxford Learner's Dictionary,

next to

  1. in or into a position right beside somebody/something

  2. following in order or importance after somebody/something

If:

A is next to B

it should mean that A is immediately beside B (as per the cited definition).

Question

But the question is:

Is A to the immediate right of B? Or to the immediate left?

Definition #2 seems to suggest that A comes after B — that is, to the right (assuming things are ordered from left to right, as is generally).

However, if A and B are next to each other, A is to the right of B, and B is to the left of A. Either ways are possible then.

Which one is a correct interpretation of 'next to'?

Context

I'm trying to the solve the "Einstein's Riddle" and two of the givens are:

  • The Norwegian lives in the first house.
  • The Norwegian lives next to the blue house.

In this case, knowing the correct position is most important. If the Norwegian(N)'s house is the first in a row of five houses, it can't possibly come after the blue(B) house. I'm arranging the houses horizontally from left to right. So, will house N be leftmost? If so, will house B be to its right? What should I assume?

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  • 3
    "Next to" doesn't tell you whether something is to the left or right of another.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 23 '17 at 16:32
  • 3
    "Next to" simply means "in a position close beside". Jun 23 '17 at 16:42
  • 4
    I agree with @Lawrence – furthermore, if A is next to B, then B is next to A. It doesn't matter which is to the left and which is to the right.
    – J.R.
    Jun 23 '17 at 16:46
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    The belief "..things are ordered from left to right, as is generally" is not reliable, as any speaker of Arabic will attest, and in this case may prevent you from solving the puzzle. Jun 23 '17 at 19:55
  • @P.E.Dant Lol. Good point! Jun 24 '17 at 6:23
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Next to does mean "immediately beside somthing else." It may be to the left, right, up, or down of something or maybe none of them, for example, up and right of something.

In your case, since we are talking about some houses beside each other, next to a house means immediately to the right or left of another house. Because we are assuming that the houses form a line and not a circle, we have the first house and the last house in our arrangement. Therefore, here, next to means immediately to the left or right.

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  • And that's the whole point of the phrase. If you say, "Al, you should stand next to Bob", you may very well deliberately not want to say whether Al should stand to the left or to the right. Either one is fine. It is common to say, "X and Y are next to each other", which of course would be impossible if a direction were implied. In the puzzle that the OP is apparently trying to solve, I'd guess the author of the puzzle is being deliberately ambiguous to avoid making the solution too easy.
    – Jay
    Jun 23 '17 at 18:39
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In this expression "right" means "immediately", with nothing intervening. The house could be on either side.

Here is the relevant definition from the Oxford English Dictionary:

1.1 Exactly; directly (used to emphasize the precise location or time of something) ‘Harriet was standing right behind her’

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/right

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  • I do understand the meaning of right used in the definition. "[...] it should mean that A is *immediately* beside B (as per the cited definition)." Jun 24 '17 at 5:43

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