# What does "within the hour" mean?

… as opposed to “within an hour”. Say it’s 2:36 PM right now and someone says “I need an answer from you within the hour.” Does that mean they expect an answer before 3:00 PM, which is only 24 minutes away? Or does it mean they expect an answer by 3:36 PM, one hour from now? If it’s the latter, isn’t that exactly the same thing as saying “within an hour”?

I have no doubt that it’s the latter. The former makes no sense.

I agree that it means the same thing as ‘within an hour’. If someone tries to pull something and claim otherwise, you can use this post as your cite.

I’ve always understood it to mean “within the current hour” (i.e. before 3:00 in the example).

I usually take it to mean within the current hour, not the next 60 minutes.

Don’t count on getting any consensus on this. It was debated here ten years ago with no resolution.

I take it to mean within the current hour, so you have to get your answer to him in 24 minutes.

Rats. I searched for the phrase to see if it had been discussed before and I got zero results I wonder how that happened.

To me within the hour means before the next hour, such as by 3. Within an hour means by the time 60 minutes have passed.

To me, it means “within the hour which starts now” - i.e., in the example given, by 3.36 p.m. It has pretty much the same meaning as “within an hour”, but is slightly more emphatic.

I say the two phrase have pretty much" the same meaning, but in fact I could think of contexts where there might be a difference. “When you get back to the office, I want you to get Joe’s personnel file and look up his start date. I need this within the hour!” means I need to know Joe’s start date within an hour of now. But if you are told to do this within an hour, that could in the context mean within an hour of you getting back to the office.

I do agree that there is some nuance involved like there are with many other time references but it is all relative.

People don’t interpret time in rules as strictly as a computer does.

For example, you can’t call someone at 3:57 pm and tell them that you need something ‘within the hour’ and expect it by 4:00 pm because it is unreasonable and doesn’t make any sense.

However, it might be appropriate if you called them at 3:12 pm and used the same terminology. In that case, most people would understand that you expect it by 4:00 pm or barely a little later because promptness is expected.

A better solution is just to tell them what time you need it by specifically in the first place if it really is that important.

For me, it definitely means within the current hour, so 3 p.m. in your example.

It’s the same as “next Wednesday”. It means one thing to some folks and another thing to others, and it’s often best to ask for clarification if it is something important.

Wrong again.

I’m surprised by this. I’ve always understood within the hour to mean “in less than 60 minutes.” I’d correct anybody who used it differently.

Within THE hour is by 3, within AN hour is in 60 minutes.

Having said that, if someone says they’ll do something ‘within the hour’ and it’s time sensitive* (at least on my end), I’ll clarify and say “within the hour or within an hour?”. If it’s 2:10, it might not matter, but if it’s 2:45 it’s a difference of 45 minutes.
*Or, not even time sensitive, but like ‘should I wait by the phone for you to call back or can I go get some other work done and make sure I’m back at my desk in an hour (because you said within the hour and I don’t think you’ll get back to me in 15 minutes)’.

I agree with Joey, but questions like this is why I won’t allow terms like “biweekly” or 'bimonthly" in procedures anymore.

Fortnightly is, as ever, acceptable.

I agree with others above, context might drive a different result. I take it to mean ‘within the hour’ i.e in the 3:36 example, it would be due by 4 PM.

However if someone said that at 3:56, my personal context would be in 1 hours time - it makes no sense to say that when you really mean in 4 minutes. But my general literal interpretation is ‘an hour’ and ‘the hour’ mean different things.

As a thought experiment, it makes a different impact to me if you change the unit hour (which is short of the scale of human endeavor) to something slightly longer. Say the time reference was a month, not an hour - how does that change your opinion.

So a client tells me on 10th March, that they need a response to a query “within the month” - I am definitely thinking it is by the end of March, not the tenth of April. Would anyone disagree with that?

I’d interpret it to mean within 60 minutes. But I’m also not sure I’d intuitively understand what someone meant by “the current hour” even if they emphasized that, so maybe I’m out on the fringes. The hour starting at the last time that ended in two zeroes isn’t so special that it’s the hour to me.

(I wonder if there’s an age difference here. I grew up in the digital clock era, and while I can tell time it’s something I have to think about. And once the cell phone era started, all those analog clocks out there in the world basically became decorations that I never use to tell the time. My point is, the time is just arbitrary numbers to me, not some big ticking dial that’s going to return to the hour mark and start over.)

“In the next hour” means in 60 minutes.

“Within the hour” means before the big hand points straight up to 12.

Perhaps we can get a consensus within the decade.