I have a question about the definition entry of "to" in this dictionary.

Definition 11a of "to" reads:

until a particular time or date

Definition 11b of "to" reads:

used for saying how much time passes before a particular date, time, or event

An example sentence under definition 11b reads:

Sales increased during the 13 weeks to September 30th.

Does anyone think that this sentence probably fit better under definition 11a instead of definition 11b? Definition 11a seems to emphasize the period of time, and definition 11b seems to emphasize the point in time.

  • 1
    No. 11b is discussing a period of time, which "13 weeks" is. 11a is discussing two specific dates. If you include the example for 11a, it's obvious how they are different.
    – Catija
    May 12, 2015 at 21:38
  • @Catija One example under definition 11a is: "The siege of Monrovia lasted from October 1992 to February 1993", which definitely emphasizes the period-of-time sense, not the point-in-time sense.
    – meatie
    May 12, 2015 at 21:42
  • No, that example emphasizes two dates, not the period of time between them.
    – Catija
    May 12, 2015 at 21:44
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems like a complaint about a definition/example rather than there being a question about the English language.
    – Catija
    May 12, 2015 at 21:53
  • @Catija Please don't close the question! It is a very insightful question about the finer points of the usage of "to".
    – meatie
    May 12, 2015 at 22:18

2 Answers 2


Definitions in a dictionary often overlap, or have cases where it is hard to say whether one definition applies or another. I wouldn't obsess about this. Prepositions in particular can be very difficult to define definitively.

In this case, I think the example sentence is a very poor one. I don't recall ever having heard someone use "to [date]" that way. The second example they give, "Only 18 days to the final exam", is much more realistic.

The difference between "the starting and ending dates of a period of time" and "the period of time itself" is a very fine distinction.

I think what this particular dictionary is trying to get at is that "13 weeks to September 1" is a period of time, i.e. a period of 13 weeks that happens to end on September 1, while "to September 1" is a point in time. But wow, very subtle distinction.

  • 1
    The sentence that would normally be used is "thirteen weeks leading up to September.
    – Catija
    May 12, 2015 at 21:58
  • @Catija Yes, thanks. Or "the thirteen weeks ending September 30th".
    – Jay
    May 12, 2015 at 22:04
  • @Jay: do you mean September 1? May 13, 2015 at 7:19
  • I suggest that "the thirteen weeks prior to September would be clearer, and not subject to being misconstrued as referring to the end of September. May 13, 2015 at 7:22
  • @BrianHitchcock The original question used September 30 as the example. In my answer I used September 1. It could be any date.
    – Jay
    May 13, 2015 at 13:08

You need to decide (in context) if the reference to the time period is on the whole period of time, or the end point in time.

The examples under 11a:

To the end of her life, she was a tireless campaigner for peace.

Here the emphasis is on the end of her life.

The shop stays open from 7 am to 9 pm.

This statement would generally occur if someone asked when the store is closing (or at least that is what you would be concerned about; showing up after they are closed.)

The siege of Monrovia lasted from October 1992 to February 1993.

Here using lasted refers to the end point in time.

The examples under 11b:

Sales increased during the 13 weeks to September 30th.

Here we are talking about what happened (sales) during those 13 weeks. September 30th is only needed to state which 13 weeks we are talking about.

Only another 18 days to the final exam! (During that time I will ...)

When you make this statement, you are likely considering what to do during those 18 days. Hopefully study a lot...

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