I'm seeing him later on tonight.

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wanabee

Senior Member
Japanese
Dear all,

This is from a grammar book:
A: Have you seen George recently?
B: No, but I'm seeing him later on tonight.

I'm not exactly sure what B is saying here. My interpretation is:
1. existence of appointment, and likelihood of seeing George
B's line tells me nothing about whether or not B has an appointment to meet George tonight.
But at least B is sure that B will see George tonight because B knows, say, George is coming to the same party as B plans to go to tonight.

2. later on tonight
"later on" means the same as "later". "on" adds nothing to "later".
"later on tonight" is just a combination of "I'm seeing George later." and "I'm seeing him tonight." It doesn't mean "at a later point in time during tonight" like "later today" means "at a later point in time during today".

Is my understanding about B's line right?

Thank you in advance.
 
  • SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    What B is saying is that he will meet George later tonight (on in not required).

    B and George have made arrangements to get together at a bar, a restaurant, a movie, a concert, or whatever.
     

    -mack-

    Senior Member
    American English
    You are correct. Later on is just an expression you will have to get used to. Later tonight would mean the same thing as later on tonight.

    It simply means that B is sure about seeing George at some point tonight.
     

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I'm confused about your assumptions regarding "later today" versus "later tonight".

    Without trying to guess about those assumptions, I'll just say:

    "Later today" could mean "today rather than tomorrow" (sometime before midnight). It could also mean sometime before evening. "Later tonight" or "later on tonight" does mean "at a later point in time during tonight". (There is nothing in the expression to indicate whether it is spoken during the day or night, however, if that's your question.)

    "Tonight" can be ambiguous too. It might mean "after sunset, but before midnight". I can also mean "after dark", but possibly "dark and even well after midnight", i.e., "after dark and before the people we're talking about give up and go to bed".
     
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    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, SwissPete, mack, and srk.
    My visibility is getting much clearer thanks to you.:)

    A: Have you seen George recently?
    B: No, but I'm seeing him later on tonight.
    What I'm still not certain about is whether "I'm seeing him tonight." could mean either of the following:
    1. We've arranged to meat tonight. or,
    2. We have no appointment but I'm sure I'll see him tonight. However, I'm not sure if he knows that we will see each other tonight. He may not know about that at all.

    And I understand about later on being the same as later.
    What I still don't understand clearly is that if we regarded tonight as referring to 6p.m. to 11p.m., "later tonight" would be taken to mean sometime between 10 and 11 p.m., that is, later part of tonight?
     

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Any of the conditions you list under 1 and 2 might be possible. What B says, does not rule any of them out. There may be an appointment, or there may not. George may know that they'll see each other, or he may not. (B may not see George at all, although he is sure in his own mind that it will happen.)

    B might say what he says at 7 p.m., in which case you're right: he could be talking about seeing George between 10 and 11. B might also be talking to A at 9 a.m., in which "later" is just as much fluff as "on" in "later on". No matter what time B is speaking to A, he could just say "No, but I'm seeing him tonight." It has to be "later", just because of how the universe works. "Later" and "later on" don't add anything.

    Whoever wrote the grammar book (and others) might have a very different idea -- that the exchange between A and B must be taking place at night for "later on tonight" to be correct usage. You'd better bet, however, that B might never have read the book, that it's 9 in the morning, and that "later on tonight" is just how the idea formed in his mind.
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, srk, for the crystal clear explanation.
    I see and I have no further question.
     

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Wanabee, I have to apologize. You clearly quoted B as saying "I'm seeing him later on tonight", and that's the way I've been quoting him too. What has been in my mind, however, is the quote "I'll see him later on tonight. "I'm seeing him" carries the idea of some definite arrangement having been made beforehand. "I'll see him..." doesn't.

    What I've said about the timing of the exchange between A and B and the later meeting is true, however.

    I'm sorry!



    After writing what's above, I knew I owed you an elaboration for the difference between "see" and "seeing", but I also knew that I had to go away and think about it.

    "Have you seen George recently? and "No, but I'll see him later on tonight" say nothing about an appointment having been made, although there may have been one. A is not necessarily asking about an appointment, and B is not necessarily answering about one. B may see George across the room at a crowded affair and simply wave to him, and that may be all B is telling A.

    "No but I'm seeing him tonight" says "We're planning to get together". Similarly, if A asks "Are you seeing George tonight?", A is asking whether B and George are planning to meet.

    Could "I'm seeing him tonight" mean "from a distance"? It is possible but very unlikely.

    If A asked B, "Have you been seeing George lately?" the question is "Are you still dating?" "Are you making arrangements to see each other socially and keeping the appointments."

    "I'm seeing the president of the United States tomorrow" probably means I'll be in the Oval Office. "I'll see the president tomorrow", could mean the Oval Office, but it's much more likely that I'll be in a large crowd, and he'll be barely visible to me. That is to say, the difference between "see" and "seeing" doesn't depend on the nature of the relationship between A and B.

    I suppose an underlying reason for the difference between "see" and "seeing" in these contexts is that "see" can refer to a discrete event, whereas "seeing" is a process of some duration.
     
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    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you so much, srk.
    I'm really enjoying these live interactions.
    This forum is definitely the unparalleled, great place for English learners, with many superb native English speaking teachers including you.
    I'm very thankful that you've deepened my and other learners' understanding again, with your last post. :)
     
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    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    That's a scary compliment, wanabee. Your English is so good, I worry about damaging it.

    Here’s some more rethinking:

    The difference between “I’ll see” and “I’m seeing” works out to be the same for B’s encounter with both George and the President. However, that turns out to be insufficient evidence to show that the difference exists regardless of the kind of relationship between the speaker and whom he’ll see. “I’ll see the dentist tomorrow” means exactly the same thing as “I’m seeing the dentist tomorrow.” I think this must be because of the set nature of meaningful encounters with the dentist. (I’m differentiating here between someone referred to as simply “the dentist” and one referred to as “George, the dentist”.)

    Here’s a use of a different present tense form to talk about a future meeting with George:

    A. Have you seen George recently?
    B. No, but I see him later on tonight.

    Even though I wrote it and believe in it, it is hard for me to read B’s answer as grammatically correct. I think this is because A’s question is very casual, and B’s answer is very serious and injects some drama into the situation. “I see him later” is a construction that says the meeting with George looms large in B’s mind.

    The following exchange shows a better match between question and answer:

    A. Have you resolved that problem with George?
    B. No, but I see him later on tonight.

    You can find ways to intonate “I’ll see the doctor tomorrow” and “I’m seeing the doctor tomorrow” so that the statement sounds ominous. It is harder to find a way to say “I see the doctor tomorrow” without sounding worried or hopeful.

    A. I see the doctor tomorrow.
    B. I hope it’s good news!

    A. I’ll see the doctor tomorrow.
    B. Can you pick up a loaf of bread on the way home?
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much again, srk.

    The difference between “I’ll see” and “I’m seeing” works out to be the same for B’s encounter with both George and the President. However, that turns out to be insufficient evidence to show that the difference exists regardless of the kind of relationship between the speaker and whom he’ll see. “I’ll see the dentist tomorrow” means exactly the same thing as “I’m seeing the dentist tomorrow.” I think this must be because of the set nature of meaningful encounters with the dentist. (I’m differentiating here between someone referred to as simply “the dentist” and one referred to as “George, the dentist”.)
    Yes, it's very interesting that "I'll see" and "I'm seeing" means exactly the same thing when the person I see is "the dentist".
    As you say, we go to the dentist to have our teeth checked or treated (always meaningful encounters), and that assumption automatically leads us to think that "I'll see the dentist tomorrow" means "I have an appointment with the dentist."

    And then, relying on your advice, I'm beginning to suspect that perhaps the listener subconsciously interpret the will in "I'll see the dentist tomorrow" slightly differently from the will in "I'll see the president of the USA tomorrow."
    In other words, the set of "I, the dentist and tomorrow" automatically leads us to believe that the will includes the speaker's intention to see the dentist, not just a prediction, compared to the will in "I'll see the president of the USA", which would usually simply indicate the speaker's prediction about seeing the president.

    You can find ways to intonate “I’ll see the doctor tomorrow” and “I’m seeing the doctor tomorrow” so that the statement sounds ominous. It is harder to find a way to say “I see the doctor tomorrow” without sounding worried or hopeful.

    A. I see the doctor tomorrow.
    B. I hope it’s good news!

    A. I’ll see the doctor tomorrow.
    B. Can you pick up a loaf of bread on the way home?
    This perspective is totally new to me and broadens my views concerning the tense. Those contrasting conversations have also made me laugh.:)

    I appreciate your help so much, srk!
     
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