difference between early and earlier

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Fujibei

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In the following quotes from theCNN, there are "earlier Thursday" and "earlier this week."What does "earlier" mean in these contexts? Doe it make anydifference if they say "early Thursday" and "early thisweek" instead?

1. A CNN team was on the front lineof the battle earlier Thursday with Iraqi units fighting ISIS….

2. Only a "couple ofhundred" ISIS fighters remained in Mosul earlier this week, the coalitionsaid.
 
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"Early" is in the beginning. Monday is early in the week. "Earlier" is before some other referenced time (or before now if no reference given). Today's Friday. Something that happened yesterday was "earlier in the week." But Thursday is not "early in the week."
 
In sentence 1., earlier Thursday is not correct. I think it should be early (on) Thursday.
 
It could be earlier Thursday if it is referring to something that happened before something else we already know about that happened on Thursday.
 
It could be earlier Thursday if it is referring to something that happened before something else we already know about that happened on Thursday.

Oh, yes, of course. I overlooked that possibility. Thanks.
 
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