3

Consider the following sentences:

  1. We ourselves don't know whether we'll be alive in the next minute.
  2. We ourselves don't know whether we'll be alive in next minute.
  3. We ourselves don't know whether we'll be alive next minute.

Out of these three, which one will used by a native speaker? I'm not sure which is grammatically correct. I think the first one is correct, but I'm not sure about that. It's for spoken English, not written English.

The context is simple: A few friends are stuck in a bad situation (or place) and anyone can die at any time. So one guy says the above statement.

5

I would make these changes:

  • add the verb (I think you meant to do that anyway),
  • drop the ourselves,
  • change the whether to if,
  • add the word still, and
  • include a preposition in the final phrase:

We don't know if we'll still be alive in the next minute.

The inclusion of ourselves isn't grammatically incorrect, but it makes the sentence unnecessarily wordy.

Similarly, there's nothing wrong with whether in that sentence, but I think if sounds a little more natural.

In my mind, the word still adds a small bit of tension to the scene. Obviously, the characters are alive now, the issue is whether or not they will still be alive a minute from now.

As for the preposition (which is the crux of your question), next minute by itself sounds like it's missing a word, at least to my native ear, so I prefer in the next minute.

A rewording you might consider would be:

We don't know if we'll still be alive a minute from now.

The phrase a minute from now is often used to allude to the immediate future. Here's a quote:

I remind us: the future begins a minute from now. (Helen Harris Perlman, 1989)

  • 2
    "Ourselves" emphasizes that it is "we" who don't know rather than someone else. If in context you have just been talking about what others know, then saying "we ourselves" emphasizes the "we". Whether that's good or useful depends on the larger context. – Jay Jul 5 '13 at 16:14
  • @Jay: That's true; good point. Consider the soldiers talking in the foxholes: "The government and the generals are telling us everything is going to be okay. We ourselves wonder if we'll still be alive tomorrow." In that context, I'd leave the ourselves in the sentence. – J.R. Jul 5 '13 at 16:29
0

You need a verb. Of the three, best is probably:

We ourselves don't know whether we'll be alive next minute.

0

Grammatically, there's no reason why OP's usage should be any different with other time-frames for which it's easier to find examples. Replacing year with minute, results from Google Books show that native speakers almost always choose OP's version #3...

1a: ...be alive in the next year (90 results)
2a: ...be alive in next year (0 results)
3a: ...be alive next year (3700 results)


Note that in OP's context, next minute/year/etc. identifies a specific period of time in the future (the minute/year after the current minute/year). This isn't quite the same as the similar construction in/within the next minute/year, which identifies a period of time one minute/year long, starting from now. Thus,...

1b: He will die in the next year (4700 results)
2b: He will die in next year (2 results)
3b: He will die next year (5830 results

The reason format #1 occurs much more often there is because dying can be seen as an "event" which may occur at some particular point within a specified time-frame, whereas in OP's context, being alive is more an "ongoing state" that may (or may not) continue throughout that time-frame.

To summarise, OP's #2 is non-idiomatic in all contexts. Whether in the is used or not largely depends on whether the speaker is talking about an event that may occur before some specified time-period has elapsed, or about some condition that may or may not be true during some future time-frame.

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