It’s about time

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Dear Hillary,

I met a Thai girl last year, since then I have been coming to Thailand every 3-4 months, to see her. We have exchanged the phone numbers and the e-mails and we have been in contact with each other all the time. However, I cannot seem to be able to explain to her the meaning of “about” or “around”. You see, she is always eager to know when I will be arriving to Thailand next time and when I reply to her “in about three months”, she takes it literally to be 90 days, because when I call her the next time – for instance in two weeks – she starts asking for my arrival date and when I reply to her in about three months, she gets upset as in her mind I have changed the date and should be arriving in two and a half months and not three. Hillary, please help me in finding correct words to convey her what I mean when I say “about”. I even tried “approximate” but that confused her even more.

Ali

Dear Ali,

I take it from your letter that English isn’t your mother tongue either, so you already know some of the problems your girlfriend is having in trying to communicate in another language. You have also found the answer yourself when you say in your letter that it could be 1-2 weeks postponed – in other words, you are saying that it will be in “about” one to two weeks. When you want to say you will be coming back in “about three months” then what you have to say is “coming back in 3-4 months” and your Thai girlfriend will know that this means “about”. Remember too, that one reason why she will want to tie down the dates is that she has to organize and arrange her life too, please don’t forget that.