I cannot differentiate between the words soon and early in my following example! I was wondering which one sounds better (grammatically and semantically) here and why?

Person A
- > Oh! Look at the time, I've got to go. It was nice to see you.

Person B
a - > Why are you leaving so soon?
b - > Why are you leaving so early?

I have read the similar thread in the forum, but unfortunately it wasn't helpful.

  • 1
    'leaving so soon' means 'leaving such a short time after you arrived', and 'leaving so early' can be said regardless of how long the visitor has been here, and means 'leaving at a time which is early for some reason' (e.g. your train is not for 2 hours, it is not night yet). – Michael Harvey Dec 29 '19 at 14:08

“Soon” is a measure of time relative to the starting point; “early” is a measure of time relative to the ending point. If someone left only a few minutes after arrival you would say “why are you leaving so soon?”. This could be even if it is already the scheduled end time. If someone left long before the scheduled end time you would say “why are you leaving so early?”. This could be even if the person had already been there for a while.

Of course, it is possible for someone to be leaving both soon and early as well.

  • 1
    Note that "early" can also mean "early in the morning" (or whatever the speaker deems to be early, I guess). I don't have to go to work soon (since I have next week off), but when I go to work I have to leave early (because of traffic). – Flater Dec 29 '19 at 23:12

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