“Soon” is one of those words that means it’ll happen in the near future or in a short time. However, for some people, “soon” can also mean a long time.
We Use “Soon” as a Way to Raise Expectations Without Taking a Risk
Soon is a vague answer we often use, e.g., I’m going to get my credit score on my credit card straightened out soon and solve my credit history, or during her pregnancy, your friend may tell you that the birth is expected “soon.” Customer service is another typical situation. Job candidates may also be told during the hiring process that they’ll receive a response soon or in a short time.
We typically use “soon” to close a conversation, giving ourselves at least a 24-hour window before we need to specify how much time is soon.
Soon Isn’t a Measure of Time
Many people use soon to express “soon” in situations that don’t necessarily follow the timeline of another word, such as “soon will be here,” “I’m going to do my credit report soon,” or “they’ll do it soon.” Other people take this literally: they perceive soon as a time variable and understand its meaning as “not yet.” It’s not always clear when you use the word; it depends on the situation and who you’re talking to.
Soon Can Mean a Few Minutes, Hours, Days, Months, or Even Years, Depending on the Context
Soon. If you’re reading this, the word probably has meaning for you.
Maybe it’s a vague notion of a future date that makes you look curiously at your watch or phone, wondering how long until the new season of Westworld begins. Or it represents an ideal time period when your favorite show will return for its next season. Or maybe it’s confirmation of an upcoming visit from your spouse who’s on leave from an overseas assignment.
Soon can mean many things to many people and cultures – but the important thing is to take the time to recognize why we’re using it, rather than adding more detail to our statements.
When someone says, “We’ll talk soon,” do they mean:
- In 10 minutes?
- Will the answer come via text message?
- What about their body language
- Are they standing with their arms crossed in front of their chest, looking at the floor?
- Do they lean against a wall and stare blankly into space while chewing on the end of a pen?
It’s also interesting how often people avoid quantifying things like time unless it’s absolutely necessary (or there’s some kind of emergency).
We’re all familiar with “I’ll be there soon” or “I’ll be over soon” responses to questions like “When will you be there?” or similar questions that require a specific answer rather than simply being as general as ” soon.”
A person who’s a problem being more specific might ask, “Why don’t I just give an exact date and time when I’ve them available? Wouldn’t that make more sense than saying ‘soon’?”
But no – sometimes it’s not helpful to give details, because then the wait becomes unbearable for anyone involved in a deal or agreement between two parties who’re waiting for the other party to fulfill their promises.
When someone knows exactly when something is going to happen, especially when something is promised but not delivered immediately, they’re likely to use words like “soon,” “in a short time,” or “in the near future.”
Soon Has Different Meanings for Different People and Cultures
“Soon” is a relative term. You may be disappointed when someone tells you something will happen “soon” and then you’ve to wait a long time for the job offer or delivery of your package.
It may not even seem like “soon” to you! But to someone else, “soon” may mean tomorrow or next month. It all depends on the situation, because “soon” has different meanings to different people and cultures.
For example, if a loved one lives on the other side of the world, a visit soon can mean a long time, from 6 months to a year, or more.
When we say “soon,” as in “we’ll take care of it as soon as possible,” it means we’ll do it as soon as we can without rushing the process because it’s important that nothing goes wrong. If you’re not sure how long something will take or exactly when you can expect a result, ask the person involved in the situation when they think something will be done – it’s better than guessing!
Set realistic expectations. It’s important to say from the beginning how long something will take, whether it’s a new show on TV or the realization of a dream.
It’s Sometimes Better to Have More Information Than Less
That way, your friends and family can be realistic about their expectations for you and for themselves. They may feel like time is passing slowly for them, but if they know something is going to happen in three months, not two weeks, they can mentally prepare for the change.
Know when it’s okay not to know everything right away or to put off decisions until later. In some situations, it’s not so important to be prepared as it’s to be willing to accept things without having a clear answer or solution. These are usually the moments when “soon” is most useful – conversations with your boss about an upcoming project at work, or your partner asking how you really feel about a particular issue, can often be avoided by answering “soon” when asked, “how soon?”
Why People Say “Soon” Instead of Being Specific
Maybe you’ve had that experience, too. You ask your healthcare provider when your infection will clear up, and he or she answers “soon!” or “in a few days.”
Your healthcare provider does this because he or she doesn’t want to take a chance if you don’t get better quickly. In this case, it’s safer to use the near future without being too specific.
Sometimes It’s Better Not to Know the Exact Duration
Although being “on time” is important in many professional and social situations, sometimes it’s better not to say exactly how long something will take. If you’re an employee, this can help your boss by giving them a rough idea of when they can expect your services without having to know the exact time.
For example, if you know you need more than a 24-hour window, it’s better to say that than to say “soon,” because then your boss might think it’s taking too long.
If you’re sick with fever, it’s hard to predict when you’ll get better, especially if you’re still in the early stages. In this case, it’s better to say that you hope to be well soon, rather than promising a timetable that you don’t yet know.
Frequently Asked Questions Where “Soon” Should Be Avoided
We all have moments when we can’t wait to tell someone good news or share our disappointment about a bad situation.
But there are some instances when it’s better to avoid using the word “soon.” Here are some examples:
- Doctor’s appointments and test results – If you have an appointment with your doctor and want to know when you’ll get your test results, don’t ask, “When will I get my results?” Instead, ask, “Can you tell me how long I’ll have to wait?”
- International flights – If you need a ticket for an international flight and want to know before you leave if there will be a delay, ask if there’s anything you can do if the flight is delayed. You can also ask about alternate routes in case there are further delays or cancelations.
- Work or school schedule and deadlines – If you’re worried about meeting deadlines at work because you’re still waiting for information from your boss or teacher, don’t say, “We need that ASAP.” Instead, use phrases like “I need this by Tuesday” or “I need this by noon on Wednesday.”