2

When I try accept my answer, I seen a prompt:

You can accept your own answer in 2 days

This sentence make sense to me as miswritten for:

You cannot accept your own answer in 2 days

I post this question on meta.stackexchange.com but I get lot votes down, all people say that sentence (prompt) is correct and proper.

So You cannot accept your own answer in 2 days vs You can accept your own answer in 2 days, what is difference? how to understanding such difference?

The context: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/322278/seem-miswritten-prompt-when-i-accept-my-answer-within-2-days

  • What do you think is wrong with "you can accept your own answer in two days"? – Darael Jan 12 at 14:21
  • "you can accept your own answer in two days" make sense to me as "I can accept my answer in 2 days",but that is not.also see :meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6044/… – illiterate Jan 12 at 14:23
  • 2
    Does it help to know that this "in" does not mean the same thing as "within"? Does an explicit contrast between now and later help you understand the sentence? "You cannot accept your own answer now. You will be able to accept your own answer in two days." – Gary Botnovcan Jan 12 at 14:23
  • @illiterate I looked at the question linked, and you are conflating "in" with "within". "In two days" is best understood as a contraction of "in two days' time", meaning "after two days have passed". You cannot accept your own answer within two days of posting it; after posting, you may accept it in two days' time. – Darael Jan 12 at 14:26
3

Prepositions are tricky. 

You can accept your own answer in two days. 
You can accept your own answer at the passing of two days. 

The first sentence here is natural and common.  The second is clumsy and strange, but it has the same meaning. 

 

The preposition "in" typically refers to some sort of container.  If I say "the gift is in a box", you understand that the box contains the gift.  Regarding this ordinary usage, "in a box" and "within a box" mean pretty much the same thing. 

When we use the preposition "in" with a period of time, we do not typically treat that period of time as a container.  When we say things like "in a minute" or "in two days", we mean at that point in time at the end of the period.  If I'm speaking literally and precisely, "I'll do it in a minute" usually means that first a minute will pass, and then I'll start to do it.* 

In contrast, "I'll do it within a minute" does treat the period of time as a container.  Here, whatever I'm doing is contained by the minute, and I should be done before that minute passes. 

 

You can accept your own answer in two days.
You can accept your own answer within two days.

The two sentences above have completely different meanings.  The fist refers to that point in time at the end of two days.  The second refers to some point in time contained by those two days. 

 

You can accept your own answer in two days.
You cannot accept your own answer within two days.

These two sentences have very similar meanings.  In the first, accepting your own answer is possible at the end of the period.  In the second, accepting your own answer is impossible inside the period. 

_______________ 
 
* Oddly enough, we often treat past-tense periods as containers, even with the preposition "in". "I did it in a minute" and "I did it within a minute" can mean the same thing.  Prepositions are tricky. 

  • It's not only the past where we use periods as containers, either: "Can you solve this in a minute?" most often has an implicit "or less", which changes the meaning to "within". Prepositions, as you say, are tricky. – Darael Jan 12 at 15:34
  • True enough, @Darael, which is why I hedged with words like "typically". On the one hand, the original warning is technically ambiguous. Grammar alone cannot tell us whether it's an inclusive or exclusive period. On the other hand, some native readers can't spot the ambiguity, even with someone standing there and pointing at it. The cultural context is so overwhelming that the pragmatics are hard to examine. – Gary Botnovcan Jan 12 at 15:51
  • As you say, such usage is "natural and common", but also common in on-line dictionary ? or at less can I find such usage by Google or similar ways without ask real people directly? – illiterate Jan 14 at 5:32
  • Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary lists the relevant definition of the preposition "in" as entry 4b on [this page](www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/in). Strangely enough, that definition doesn't seem to appear in the main Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The only thing I can suggest is that, when you need to check an online dictionary, check several. Like anything else made by people, none of them are perfect. – Gary Botnovcan Jan 14 at 13:29
3

"You can accept your own answer in two days" means "in two days' time, you will be able to accept your own answer".

"You cannot accept your own answer in two days" means "in two days' time, you will still be unable to accept your own answer". "Cannot" is the opposite of "can", after all.

Other sentences equivalent to the SE rule include "you cannot accept your own answer within two days [of posting it]", "you cannot accept your own answer for two days [after posting it]", and "you must wait two days before you can accept your own answer".

Your error appears to be in your interpretation of "in two days", rather than your understanding of "can" versus "cannot". In this context, "in two days" means at the point in time two days from now, not the entire span between now and then.

0

I think the current prompt is correct.

You can accept your own answer in 2 days

In means here:

You can accept your own answer after 2 days

– or –

You can accept your own answer 2 days in from now

As noted in the comments, you probably seem to confuse in and within.

You cannot accept your answer in 2 days

For me this reads as "In exactly 2 days it is not possible to accept your answer. It is at every other moment".

If you want to use cannot you should use for:

You cannot accept your answer for/within 2 days

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.