I'm a bit confused about the meaning of the verb "signal". Does the word "signal" refer to things that already happened or that will happen? Here's Oxford Dictionary's take on it

to be a sign that something exists or is likely to happen

So does it mean it can refer to both the present and the future? What does it mean?

A fall in demand does not necessarily signal the death of the industry.

Does it mean "it's not necessarily dead" or "it won't necessarily die"? I would say sometimes the difference does matter

I started to wonder about it when writing a Javadoc for an event class. Application events typically indicate that something (already) happened so a listener to that event can do something about it

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    "Is likely to happen" is exactly the meaning here, but you know that from the sense rather than the grammar. If demand for a product is falling, the product must still be on sale. Commented Feb 2 at 8:13

1 Answer 1


Signal can refer to future, present, or past information. It means roughly "to communicate, usually in a nonverbal way." It is perfectly correct to say that an event listener waits for a signal.

  • But does an event listener signal? Commented Feb 2 at 14:49
  • @SergeyZolotarev No, the event listener receives the signal. You could say that the button signals the event listener or that a mouse event signals the event listener. Commented Feb 13 at 18:23
  • The person/thing that signals is the one sending the communication, not the one receiving it. Commented Feb 13 at 18:24
  • Sorry, I actually meant to ask "does an event signal". As I said in the original question, I was writing a Javadoc for an event class Commented Feb 14 at 13:43
  • @SergeyZolotarev Yes, an event signals :) Commented Feb 14 at 21:38

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