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What Does “By Tomorrow” Mean?

For English language learners, it is sometimes difficult to grasp all the different meanings when words have more than one definition, and “tomorrow” is such a word. So, naturally, they often wonder what someone means by “tomorrow” and how they can use the word in all its different roles.

We often use “by tomorrow” to refer to something that will happen or get done the day after today, but it is used informally to indicate other future periods of time. Using the second broader definition, we can refer to something that will happen relatively soon or something that will occur in the indefinite future.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different meanings of “tomorrow,” give many examples of using the word in sentences in the various roles, and briefly discuss where the term originated.

 “Tomorrow” Has Different Meanings

Although there are different meanings of “tomorrow,” they are all related in the sense that they always refer to something in the future. Thus, in most instances, the context in which someone uses the word indicates what they mean by it.

Simply put, “tomorrow” can mean any of the following four concepts of time:

  • The day after today
  • The near future/ fairly soon
  • Sometime in the indefinite future

“Tomorrow” Meaning “the Day After Today”

We most often refer to the day following the present day as “tomorrow,” using the word to describe a future action on the day after today. For example, you can say that you are going to do something tomorrow, meaning that you will do it the day after today.

This is the most common definition of “tomorrow,”, especially in everyday speech. The following examples clearly illustrate the meaning of “tomorrow” as “the day after today.”

When someone tells you on Wednesday, November 24th, 2021, that Thanksgiving is tomorrow, it means Thanksgiving is the day after that day, which would be November 25th, 2021. 

Similarly, if someone tells you that she can’t wait until tomorrow for the parcel to arrive, she means she’s excited about its arrival the day after the present day.

Again, if John tells you on one day that he will see you tomorrow, it means he will see you the next day. When your manager tells you that tomorrow will be a very busy day as it is month-end, he also means that it will be the day after today that will be busy.

“Tomorrow” in Relation to the Present Day

Remember that “tomorrow” refers to a future day, with the starting point being the present day you are in. For example, if it is Monday today, and Mary tells you now that she will visit her mother tomorrow, it means she is going to see her on Tuesday.

It is also correct to tell your friend Peter today (Monday) that Mary is going to visit her mother tomorrow. In both instances, “tomorrow” refers to the day after today, namely Tuesday.

However, it is incorrect to tell your friend Peter on Wednesday that Mary has said Monday she would visit her mother tomorrow. As you are telling this to Peter on Wednesday, he will be under the impression that Mary will visit her mother on Thursday — that day’s “tomorrow.” 

This is because Peter’s understanding of “tomorrow” is in relation to the present day you are in when you are telling the story.

However, you can tell Peter on Wednesday that you’re sure Mary’s exact words on Monday were “I will visit my mother tomorrow.” The meaning of “tomorrow” is then the day after you’ve heard the conversation. This is a correct use of the word because you are repeating Mary’s direct words.

The rule of thumb is that you never use “tomorrow” for something in the past, except when it is a direct quotation.

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

”Tomorrow” as an Adverb and Noun

An adverb modifies or describes a verb. For example, “loudly” is the adverb describing the verb “sings”in the sentence “She sings loudly.” 

As an adverb, “tomorrow” emphasizes and describes when something will occur. It means that something will happen the next day, so if you say that your guest is leaving tomorrow, you mean that the guest is leaving the day after today.

Nouns identify a person, place, or thing, which would include a day. You can use “tomorrow” as a noun as well. As a noun, it refers to a specific day. For example, in the sentence “Tomorrow will be the day we’ll repair the kitchen tap,” the meaning is that they’ll fix the tap on the day after today, whatever the name of the day.  

When you say that it will be a warm and sunny day tomorrow according to the weather report, you refer to “tomorrow” as if it is the name of a day and mean that the weather will be like that on the day after today, whatever the name of the day (source).

Origin of “Tomorrow” Meaning “the Day after Today”

“Morrow” is an archaic word meaning, amongst other things, “the next day.” The word is a modification of “morwe” from Middle English, which originated from Old English “morgen.” By combining the preposition “to” with “morrow,” they formed the word “tomorrow.”

For a more thorough breakdown of the etymology of “tomorrow,” make sure you read “Why Do We Say ‘Tomorrow’?

Tomorrow Meaning “the Near Future” or “Fairly Soon”

Tomorrow can also mean “the near future” or “fairly soon.” When a mother says that today’s first-graders will be tomorrow’s second graders, she does not mean that they will be second graders when they wake up the next day, but she means that they will be second-graders soon.

An example where “tomorrow” means “fairly soon” is when someone tells you that if you don’t get your life on track today, you will be very sorry tomorrow. In this example, it is interesting that “today” also refers to a period and not necessarily only one day.

Tomorrow Meaning “at Some Time in the Indefinite Future”

One can also use “tomorrow” when referring to a situation or period as indefinite, meaning no one has determined it yet or that they can’t foresee when the situation or period will end. For example, if you say, “Everyone hopes for a better tomorrow,” you have not given a time frame. “Tomorrow” can be anywhere in the future (source).

Other uses of “tomorrow” in this sense are:

  • You are doing this like there’s no tomorrow 
  • My wife spends her salary like there’s no tomorrow
  • The rich man always plans for tomorrow.

In all of these, there is no specific date or period of time — it is something that will happen somewhere in the future.

Sometimes, people say tongue in cheek that when politicians make statements regarding something they’ll accomplish  “tomorrow,” they mean they’ll do it sometime in the indefinite future. 

For example, suppose the political candidate for a specific ward promises to repair all the streets in the suburb tomorrow. In that case, it means that someone will do it sometime in the indefinite future.

By using “tomorrow” in this sense, the speaker creates the illusion that something will happen soon, although the speaker knows that someone will attend to the matter only somewhere in the future. 

Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

“By Tomorrow” or “On Tomorrow”: Is There A Difference?

The meaning of “by tomorrow” and “on tomorrow” is exactly the same, and you’ll hear people use both forms from time to time in speech. However, although they used “on tomorrow” in Shakespearian times, the use is grammatically incorrect in modern English, so you should never use it in formal speech or writing unless you’re quoting an archaic source.

When Shakespeare used “on to-morrow” in Scene 6 of Act 3 in Henry V, the meaning was “the next day after today. “We quote: “Beyond the river we’ll encamp ourselves, And on to-morrow, bid them march away.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of “on” with “tomorrow” is redundant.

However, you still hear it from time to time, as in “We will have a meeting with the CEO on tomorrow.” 

It means exactly the same as “We will have a meeting with the CEO tomorrow.” Although we say “on Tuesday,” we don’t say “on tomorrow.” Still, if someone uses it, it has no other meaning than “tomorrow.”

Related Words “Tomorn” and “Tomorrower”

Two words related to “tomorrow” that you might not be familiar with since we don’t hear them much anymore are “tomorn” and “tomorrower.”

Tomorn

In Middle English, “tomorn” was a word that the English used as an adverb or a noun, with the same meaning as” tomorrow.” It came from Old English “tōmorgen,”  meaning “tomorrow” (source). 

The word is now rather archaic, so it is rare in modern English, but the English used it in the same way as “on the day after today” or “On the morrow.” The first record of “tomorn” comes from King Alfred (AD 848–899), king of the West Saxons and Anglo-Saxons (source).

Tomorrower

“Tomorrower” is a noun that refers to a person who puts matters off till tomorrow, so a tomorrower is a procrastinator. It originated in the early 19th century with the earliest known use by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), who was a poet, critic, and philosopher.

“By Tomorrow”

Many learners ask, “What is the meaning of ‘by tomorrow’?” and are often confused by the use of that phrase in various contexts. Here, we’ll discuss the meaning and usage of “by tomorrow.”

Is It Correct to Say “By Tomorrow”?

It is correct to use the phrase “by tomorrow,” but you should be aware that there can be more than one meaning for the phrase, which can be very confusing. The phrase can either mean before the end of today or before midnight on the day following today.

This is one instance where the ambiguity of a phrase referring to “tomorrow” can lead to a misunderstanding with consequences for all parties.

For example, if you have to send something to a person, and the person says, “Send it to me by tomorrow,” you will not know whether you have to send it before midnight today or midnight the day after today.

When you don’t know which of the two meanings is applicable, the best option is to ask the person to clarify what they meant.

What Does “Finish By Tomorrow” Mean? 

If someone tells you that you have to finish by tomorrow, it means that you have only one more day — the day after today — to finish what you are doing. You can answer in the passive voice that the work will be finished by tomorrow, meaning you are still working, but it will be done by the end of the day following the present day.

What Does “By Tomorrow’s Deadline” Mean?

Generally, the deadline “by tomorrow” means you have time until midnight the day following the present one to do what you have to do. Someone stating this does not set a specific time, but expect it done before midnight the day following today.

What Does “It Will Be Done by Tomorrow” Mean? 

“It will be done by tomorrow” means that someone is still working on the task, and they expect it to be finished by the day after today. 

Example: We’ve started paving the patio yesterday, and it will be done by tomorrow.

Interestingly, if you take out the “by” in the sentence, the meaning changes. “It will be done tomorrow” can mean the work has not yet started but will all happen on the day following the present day. 

Example: Because of the rain, we have not yet started with the job. Still,  as we expect today to be the last rainy day, the job will be done tomorrow.

This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.

Alternatively, this statement could mean “It will be finished by tomorrow,” so this is another situation where it always helps to clarify.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has helped you to determine the meaning of “tomorrow.” As we explained, when we use “tomorrow,” it always suggests something to do with the future, but there are different meanings of the word, depending on the context in which someone uses it.

However, by understanding the basic meanings of “tomorrow,” you will be able to grasp the meaning in most cases. When it does not refer to the next day, it means relatively soon or, less often, in the indefinite future.