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I had dates ahead that I disliked to cancel.

If there were no “ahead”, I would assume it means there were dates the speaker wouldn’t like to cancel. With “ahead”, however, I can't clearly understand it.

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  • Welcome to ELU! This question could be improved with the addition of more detail, especially more clarity around how you understand either version of the sentence and the context of the quotation (linking a source is best). – Tyler James Young Oct 1 '14 at 15:09
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As @MystiSinha says, "ahead" here means "in the future". Yes, it is superfluous in this sentence as presumably one cannot cancel an appointment that is already past. But redundant words are often included for emphasis. The writer's intent here may be to say that they are very close ahead, i.e. dates in the near future. Or he may simply be emphasizing that these are future appointments and not past appointments.

By the way, the wording of the sentence is rather awkward. A fluent speaker would be more likely to say, "I had dates ahead that I did not want to cancel" or "I disliked cancelling the dates I had ahead." As worded, the sentence is a little confusing because it sounds like he's saying that he dislikes the dates rather than cancelling the dates. I can't quote a grammar rule that makes this wrong, but it sounds awkward to me. I welcome comments from other posters on this point: Is there a rule being broken here, or is this just a whim of mine?

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I had dates ahead that I disliked to cancel.

=> Future date: a particular day in the future that is specified as the time something will happen

Why not: I had ** future dates** that I disliked to cancel.

or

simply, I had dates that I disliked to cancel. (The usage of the adverb -ahead- appears redundant )

The literal meaning of ahead is further forward in space; in the line of one's forward motion, higher in number, amount, or value than previously.

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"ahead" refers to position and means in a position where your head is looking. The Longman DCE says: in front: a short distance in front of someone or something. And, of course, local adverbs can refer to time as well. "dates ahead" means dates in the next time".

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