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oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com (item №2 -> Extra Examples):
(1) Items should be paid for within 14 days of receipt.
Seeing "of" is odd to me here.
As far as I can guess, "of" means "after" here.
I never thought that "of" could have such a meaning.

my variant:
(2) Items should be paid for within 14 days after receipt.
What's the difference between (1) and (2)?

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  • The cottage is within a stone's throw of the castle. Within x distance of something is a spatial measure that has been repurposed, by analogy, for a temporal measure. Your variant is not how it is said by the average native speaker.
    – TimR
    Commented May 3 at 15:58
  • "within...after" don't combine. Within wants to be complemented by ( {some measure} of a place) or (of a time-point) -- of a "location" on a time-line. After is a continuum, not a location.
    – TimR
    Commented May 3 at 16:04
  • 2
    of x casts "x" as origin place. "It is within 5 miles of the lake". The lake is the origin of the measurement, a distance of 5 miles (in all directions, like a radius) is specified, and "it" falls within that perimeter. With time, it is a time-line, single-dimension, rather than two.
    – TimR
    Commented May 3 at 16:11

2 Answers 2

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As has been pointed out in comments, you can't use both within and after in this context. The dictionary example...

  1. Items should be paid for within 14 days of receipt

...is fine, but if the OP wants to use after, it needs to be something like...

2a) Items should be paid for by 14 days after receipt

Note that (2a) isn't particularly likely, but it's syntactically fine, and means exactly the same as (1).

This difference arises because within needs to be coupled to the start of a relevant timeframe (not to some point after that time), whereas by references the end of the acceptable timeframe.


Note that within [length of time] of [point in time] can refer to times before the specified point as well as after it.

All these constructions are using [linear] distance to metaphorically reference [length of] time. In such contexts, words like before and after must be treated with care, because time has inherent direction, whereas distance doesn't.

Thus within 2 weeks of your birthday can refer to a total period of 4 weeks (2 before, and 2 after your birthday). But in context, it may be obvious that it's only intended to refer to the 2 weeks after your birthday (or - less likely but still validly - only the 2 weeks before it).

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I agree with what others have said in comments and +1 to FF.

I want to add that your sentence (2) doesn't work because "within 14 days" and "after receipt" scan as two separate adverbials of time, with an odd meaning something like:

Items should be paid for within 14 days. They should be paid for after receipt.
OR
Items should be paid for within 14 days, which means after receipt.

Neither reading means the same as "...within 14 days of receipt".

The preposition "within" takes a length of time as an object. "14 days" is a length of time. It also takes an optional "of"-phrase which indicates the start of the length of time. However, "14 days after receipt" is a point in time, not a length, so it cannot be parsed the way you intend.

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  • You wrote: "an odd meaning ...: Items should be paid for within 14 days. They should be paid for after receipt." Could you tell me please why the aggregate consisting of these two sentences has an odd meaning? Why don't they mean "After receipt, items should be paid for within 14 days."? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Commented May 5 at 8:08
  • @Loviii With that example, I was trying to show that one way to parse your version while following the rules of grammar is with two different meanings, like saying, "I'll arrive in the late afternoon, around midnight." That said, anybody would understand the intended meaning.
    – gotube
    Commented May 5 at 19:04

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