on (a) New Year's Eve


-- Well, I predict that the world will end at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.
-- This year?
-- Mm-hm.
Ghostbusters II, movie

Does the phrase "on New Year's Eve" itself clearly imply that it'll happen this year and the second speaker just expects a confirmation, or is it really ambiguous and the second speaker asks what year it'll happen? Or in that case it would have been "on a New Year's Eve"? Thank you.
  • Retired-teacher

    Senior Member
    British English
    Any reference to a date in the future "at Christmas, at Easter, on Sunday" is always taken to mean the next one to arrive unless an alternative is made clear, for example "Easter next year" said today would mean Easter 2018. In my view the second speaker is asking for unnecessary confirmation.


    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I don't think the clarification is unnecessary.
    The first speaker is making a prediction about the future, so it's not entirely clear that it has to be THIS New Year's Eve. For instance, there's a religious tradition that says the savior will come back "in the night," but that doesn't necessarily mean he's coming back tonight!! It could theoretically be any night.

    In normal speech, sure, most people would say "on New Year's Eve I want to watch the fireworks" and they would certainly be implying that they mean this year, or "at midnight I'm going to get up and make a sandwich" would imply it's happening tonight. It is usually implied.

    I think in this case the second speaker was not only asking for clarification because "this year" was only implied but not stated, but also responding in (reasonable) disbelief at the implication that the world is about to end within a short period of time!
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    Thank you, both.

    But was I right that "on a New Year's Eve" would be idiomatic and would mean one of the following New Year's Eves?
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