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Can I say, I need to submit these worksheets before the day is out, instead of before the end of the day? I've seen out used to mean finished.

One more thing: Can out also mean a period of time from now? As in I will be vacationing two months out or my appointment is five days out.

Is out in these two instances idiomatic and informal?

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  • The second usage is not very idiomatic. It's understandable, but things like "five days out" are usually used in the sense of "five days past", like "We are five days out of Barcelona", meaning "We left Barcelona five days ago." – stangdon Apr 30 '18 at 20:30
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Yes. Yes. Yes and yes.

Though, it's not really being used as a time period in your second instance. It sets the time frame in the future, as opposed to the past. When used this way, "out" is always relative to the future.

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  • I would rather say that 'out' related to time is used relative to a starting point - e.g. we started the project on March 1st, we are two months out, and you still have not provided the documentation. – Michael Harvey Apr 30 '18 at 20:58
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    @MichaelHarvey I agree with user9570789. In your example, I have no idea whether you mean that the project started two months ago or the project will end two months from now. I'd be more likely to assume the latter. If it started two months ago "two months in" would be preferable. – joiedevivre May 1 '18 at 0:17
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'Before the [current period of time] is out' is another way of saying 'before the end of the [current period of time]', so yes to your first question. I have never seen or heard 'out' used in the way you describe in your second question, even idiomatically or informally.

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  • To clarify, if I say "I will learn to swim before the year is out", and I say it on October 1st, I am giving myself three months. – Michael Harvey Apr 30 '18 at 20:55
  • I'm sorry to downvote this. Perhaps it's just a dialectic difference, but in the English I have been speaking all my life, "My appointment is five days out" is perfectly idiomatic and means my appointment is five days in the future. I don't even think of it as informal. – joiedevivre May 1 '18 at 0:29

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