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    difference between "do something early" and "do something earlier"

    I am having a lot of trouble with the two phrases - "to do something early" and "to do something earlier". I have heard some people say the following sentences.

    (1) I am going to get off work early today.

    (2) Today is Friday. The Physics final exam is scheduled for next Thursday. Some students want to take it earlier.

    (3) I will go to the library early tomorrow.

    (4) I will go to the library earlier tomorrow.

    I am very confused about when to use which one. Because I am not a native English speaker, it sounds to me that both "early" and "earlier" fit the first two sentences just like the next two. A lot of people have told me that "early" and "earlier" do not have exactly the same meaning.

    Is there a rule that helps you figure out this problem? Please help me. Thank you very much.

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    Re: difference between "do something early" and "do something earlier"

    "Earlier" is a comparison to some other defined time.

    In sentence 2, the "earlier" refers to the defined scheduled test time of Thursday.

    Sentence 4, without any other context raises the question "earlier than what?" It is a normal sentence if preceded with something like "I usually go to the library at 3 PM. I will go earlier tomorrow."

    "I will go early tomorrow," without any other context would mean early in the morning.

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