Deadlines as instants or periods with various verbs and tenses

I was wondering whether a deadline is more of an instant or more of a period. It seems to have some of both aspects, but with more of an emphasis on the instant. I thought that this should be reflected in the verbs used in this context.

The total Google hit counts for “the deadline is/ends/passes/was/ended/passed on X”, where X is any day of the week, are as follows:

is     509
ends    64
passes  73

was    127
ended  124
passed 181

In the present tense, there’s a strong preference for “is”, with “ends” and “passes” roughly similar, whereas in the past tense there’s a slight preference for “passed”, with “was” and “ended” roughly similar.

The present tense usage would seem to indicate that a deadline is conceived of more as an instant (“is”, “passes”) than a period (“ends”), but the picture is slightly different in the past tense. This might be due to the fact that in the past tense, one is often implying that someone missed the deadline, and this seems to be conveyed better by “ended” than by “was”; that could explain that “passed” is most frequent, since it combines both aspects, both referring to an instant and carrying the negative implication.

I’d be interested in any insight into this phenomenon, especially other usage examples of “deadline” that might throw more light on its being conceived of as an instant or a period. (By the way, the corresponding German “Frist” is also somewhere between an instant and a period, but here the period aspect is stronger, and in the present tense “endet” (“ends”) is more frequent than “ist” (“is”) by roughly a factor of 2.)


Deadline is a date or time by which you have to complete something. Using your terminology it’s an instant. Dictionaries of collocations give the list of verbs that can follow “deadline”.They are “approach, expire,pass “.All combinations correspond to “an instant “.

Source : Link , Question Author : joriki , Answer Author : V.V.

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