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Please help! If someone asks you to call them within 24 hours of leaving a place, does it mean 24 hours after leaving? For example, if you are still at home and call an hour before you leave home, does it still count as “within 24 hours of leaving home?”

My understanding is that “within 24 hours of leaving” includes at least some time before actually leaving (while you are getting ready to leave, for example). Or does “within 24 hours of leaving” only include the time AFTER leaving?

  • Well, if you want to look at it literally, within 24 hours of leaving denotes an interval of 48 hours, with the leaving taking place in the middle. I would interpret it to mean "at the latest (no later than) 24 hours after leaving". Either way, it should be okay to call, say, an hour after leaving. – userr2684291 Jan 6 at 23:27
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    I think it's pointless looking for this kind of precision. What does it mean? Well, whatever people mean by it. What do they mean by it? Ask them. It will depend on the circumstances. Sometimes they obviously don't mean before leaving. Sometimes the obviously do mean before or after leaving. Most times the question simply won't arise. – Colin Fine Jan 6 at 23:34
  • I think it depends on the context. For example if someone says: "Please call me within 24 hours of leaving so I can say goodbye", it obviously means before you leave. However, "Please call me within 24 hour of leaving so I can inspect the place" could mean before or after you leave. – alanfcm Jan 6 at 23:43
  • There was a significant misunderstanding of just this construction (though in the past) in the UK a few years back. There were reports of a shocking number of people dying "within" a few weeks of having had their Disability benefit stopped. While there is and was a concern about this, it turned out that the particular information reported included everybody who had died in that number of weeks before or after their benefit was stopped; i.e. it included (not separately) people who had died and therefore had their benefit stopped. – Colin Fine Jan 7 at 0:15
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    @Emily Why not just say within 24 hours after leaving, or even more explicitly, no later than 24 hours after leaving? – userr2684291 Jan 7 at 2:42
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within x number of hours is the deadline.

  • You leave at 6 p.m.

I say: Call me within 24 hours. [of that time]

That means: You have until the next day at the same time to call me.

It only includes the time after leaving.

Frankly, I see no ambiguity there at all.

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Strictly speaking, 'within' could mean before or after the time indicated. In the context you provided though, it seems likely the speaker meant to refer only to 24 hours or less after leaving.

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  • No, it cannot mean before the time indicated. If a time is X, within 24 hours means up to 24 later. Anytime within those 24 hours. – Lambie Jan 7 at 22:58
  • As noted in a similar question, 'within' can refer to time before as well. E.g., "do not eat within one hour of taking this medication" means don't eat for an hour before, and don't eat for an hour after. Note that I made a distinction between the generic definition and what is likely intended in the example given. – AZep Jan 8 at 19:29
  • Did you read what I actually said? If you know it is six o'clock, then it is only in the future. If you read the poster's words, it is clear there is a specific time involved. If someone asks you to call them within 24 hours of leaving a place =assumes the person left at a specific time. You can't call the person prior to that comment being made. It's so obvious. – Lambie Jan 8 at 20:00
  • Did you read what I actually said? "Strictly speaking, 'within' could mean before or after the time indicated." This is a true statement. "In the context you provided though, it seems likely the speaker meant to refer only to 24 hours or less after leaving." This is also a true statement. I feel that it is useful to note both the generic definition of the word, as well as its meaning as used in the example given. – AZep Jan 8 at 22:55
  • There is nothing generic about it. And you provide no example where it means before a time. – Lambie Jan 8 at 23:04

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