"a long time ago" or "long ago"

sagar grammar

Senior Member
Namaste,
Dear members.

Please see this sentence and tell me whether one or either of them could be used.
and what is the difference(if there is any) between the two phrases.

1- _______ , there lived a king named Siddhartha in India.
A- long ago
B- A long time ago

Thanks in advance. :)
 
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    In BE, "Long ago..." is a commonly-used idiomatic way of starting a fairy story or a tale about a legend.

    That's the one I'd pick if asked to make a choice between (A) and (B). :)
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    In BE, "Long ago..." is a commonly-used idiomatic way of starting a fairy story or a tale about a legend.

    That's the one I'd pick if asked to make a choice between (A) and (B). :)
    Do you think it says something different, perhaps even in tone, than "a long time ago" in BE?

    (I might waggishly wonder if the Brits have a deeper understanding of what constitutes a long time. :D )
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    "A long time ago" is more prosaic, so like Donny I wouldn't choose it to begin a fanciful tale. Well, I might do, but I see "long ago..." used a lot with phrases beginning "there lived..."
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    You're right, sagar, in #9.
    As others have said, "Long ago" is the standard formula for legends, such as the Siddhartha tale.
    It tells the listener/reader immediately that the following is a traditional story.
    If you began with "A long time ago,...", the naive listener might think, for a moment, that you were remembering something that occurred in your lifetime.
    So "long ago" is literary, and "a long time ago" is prosaic?
    Perhaps that's the difference at the beginning of a narration.
    But otherwise, it's not so simple as that.
    In an ordinary conversation, you could say "Why didn't you tell me this long ago?",
    or "I got rid of my TV set long ago."
     
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