What is the meaning of by fall in the following sentence

The once-unthinkable toll appears to be just the beginning of untold misery in the months ahead as Las Vegas casinos and Walt Disney World make plans to reopen, crowds of unmasked Americans swarm beaches and public health officials predict a resurgence by fall.

3 Answers 3


In North American English, the fall is another way to say autumn, which is one of the four seasons of the year that comes after summer and ends before winter. You might now ask why is there no definite article in front of fall in by fall. Well, it's often the case in English that articles are omitted when they follow the preposition by when it is used to indicate a deadline or the end of a particular time period. That might be the reason why the definite article is missing there, but I can't be entirely sure. Anyway, by fall is correct and idiomatic.

So, what public health officials are trying to say is that by the time it's autumn, we're going to have a resurgence in the number of covid-19 cases, meaning, the curve that represents the number of people who have contracted the virus is going to go up again.

  • 3
    "the North American way" is a little strong; both fall and autumn are in common use. Commented May 29, 2020 at 21:57
  • 2
    It's only idiomatic if you aren't North American. That's the part that's a little too strong.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 0:33
  • 1
    @chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- I changed that. Thanks. Commented May 30, 2020 at 2:16

Here "by" means "before". From Merriam-Webster:

3b: not later than

be there by 2 p.m.

So to paraphrase, public health officials are predicting a resurgence before the fall.

  • 1
    Definition of a word, location notwithstanding, +1 (should also include the definition of fall though)
    – Mazura
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 0:34

Fall is one of the four seasons (astronomically, and meteorologically in temperate climates): spring, summer, fall, winter: https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/aboutseasons.html

So what this is saying is that public health officials expect the incidence of COVID-19 cases to show a considerable increase by September.

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