If you're talking about doing something in the future, do you say "somewhere down the road", or "sometime down the road"?

  • 1
    You say "down the road" :^) Place and time don't matter. I elaborate in my answer below, with examples. – J.R. Jul 27 '13 at 9:12

Interesting question! My first instinct is that both make sense, in different senses. "somewhere down the road" means to me something like "at some point along this metaphorical road that is the future." I think that's the way I would say it. But "some time down the road" makes sense too; I wouldn't be confused if I heard it. But my gut tells me it's less common.

This ngram seems to support that conclusion:

enter image description here

  • I asked about charts on ELU meta, but in the end I figured out a way that worked for me, and posted an answer myself. Note that I now use the vastly superior Chrome browser, but that hasn't changed how I add chart/picture links. – FumbleFingers Jul 27 '13 at 4:33
  • ...but note that the chart doesn't really tell us much, since it doesn't distinguish "literal" usages (at some location along the road) from "figurative" (the road = the passage of time). Nor does it include the single-word form sometime, which I personally would probably prefer for OP's figurative use. – FumbleFingers Jul 27 '13 at 4:40
  • We can fix the latter: books.google.com/ngrams/… As for the former, someone could probably categorize the first few pages of results into metaphorical, literal, and not sure and make a guess based on that, though I don't know whether or not the extrapolation would be valid. – snailcar Jul 27 '13 at 7:24
  • @snail: I had the same thought you did; the results are a bit closer when you account for both "sometime" and "some time". It's also worth pointing out that, just because one particular wording is in the minority, that doesn't always imply it's wrong or inferior. Less used ≠ less correct. – J.R. Jul 27 '13 at 8:29
  • @snailboat I attempted to edit your ngram into the answer for better accuracy (it's a fair point that you guys bring up) but it's being finicky and will only display one line (the "somewhere" one) when I try and include the image in the answer. Not really sure what's going on, as it works fine when I view the link in ngram viewer (and also when I use FF's "graph->chart" trick) but when it's loaded in the actual answer it doesn't display properly. /fail – WendiKidd Jul 27 '13 at 15:24

I think either one works just fine. As they would tell you on Physics.SE:

Distance = Rate × Time

Unless we are traveling by car, or giving directions, "the road" is probably not a physical road; and the phrase is being used as a metaphorical expression to mean "later" or "in the future". Since distance is a function of time, we get further down the road later in time, meaning somewhere and sometime are related to each other, and, in the context of this metaphor, virtually interchangeable. On this proverbial road, we can assume there are no breakdown lanes, so we always progress in location as we progress in time. Ergo, there's no set way to word it; for example, this works, too:

Solar preparation of new homes reduces the cost someplace down the road when that owner decides to buy a solar unit.

Moreover, there's one other alternative that hasn't been discussed, even though it is in use; namely, omit the somewhere/sometime/someplace altogether, and simply say down the road, as these authors did:

My fear was that, down the road, she would become dependent on others.

Climbing is not the direct source of happiness. Instead, it cultivates virtues that down the road will be a greater source of happiness.

One challenge is to convince the customer that, down the road, they will not exploit the position they enjoy as not only supplier of the product but also the sole source of changes, upgrades, updates, interoperability, and so on.

As to where or when that becomes bribery, it's a fine line. Especially when, down the road, there's a jury to convince.

One Ngram suggests that such wordings are not any less "valid" than using sometime or somewhere:

down the road

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