(for) over/more than 20 years

wilsyls

Member
Chinese(but I'm a Taiwanese)
she has been teaching at this school for over 20 years - looks good to me
she has been teaching at this school over 20 years - looks okay to me
she's been a teacher at this school for more than 20 years - looks good
she's been a teacher at this school more than 20 years - I'm not sure about this one

I believe the first and the third sentences are absolutely grammatically correct.
But what feels right, without "for" preceding "over", in the second sentence doesn't feel right in the fourth sentence.
So, is it okay, or
grammatically correct, to drop "for" and just use "more than 20 years" in the fourth sentence?

Thank you guys for sharing!:)
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Neither of the sentences without 'for' sounds right to me. Some might say them - they're not obviously wrong - but plain 'over' doesn't mean the same as 'for over'. To me plain 'over' says it need not be a continuous period. The total time fits within 20 years.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Without "for", over takes on the meaning of "intermittently and during" or "at various time during" - "Over 20 years, I have collected fossils from the local beach."

    Crosspost.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree. The second can only really be used if it means [on and off] over the course of 20 years, but even then it doesn’t read well. You need to include “for”.
     

    wilsyls

    Member
    Chinese(but I'm a Taiwanese)
    Thank you guys!

    So the three replies above basically agree with one another. Apparently the fourth sentence is out of the game now. But can I deduce from the third reply by lingobingo that "for" is "almost always" used here and it should be "for over 20 years", making the second sentence mean the same as the third one does and thus ridding the second sentence of the sense "on and off"? And if I'm to convey the sense of "on and off", it should be "she's been teaching at this school on and off for over 20 years", perhaps?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, good summary. Except for your last remark:

    And if I'm to convey the sense of "on and off", it should be "she's been teaching at this school on and off for over 20 years", perhaps?
     

    wilsyls

    Member
    Chinese(but I'm a Taiwanese)
    Thank you lingobingo!:)

    So, if I've understood you correctly, the senses "on and off" and "continuous period", they just don't coexist in one sentence, right?

    It really takes a native speaker to sort out such subtle nuances!:D
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    So, if I've understood you correctly, the senses "on and off" and "continuous period", they just don't coexist in one sentence, right?

    It really takes a native speaker to sort out such subtle nuances!:D
    There’s nothing subtle about this. On and off means not continuous. They’re opposites.
     

    wilsyls

    Member
    Chinese(but I'm a Taiwanese)
    You're right lingobingo. I don't know what I am talking about up there.

    Although there are no big words in my original question, it really feels like I've just learned a lot!:)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Don’t get me wrong! I don’t mean to criticise. The difference between using “for” or not in your original examples is really quite subtle. It’s a perfectly valid question. And the more subtle a difference is, the more difficult it is to explain. It’s just that in the case of on and off/continuous, the difference is clear because they mean the opposite of each other. :)
     

    wilsyls

    Member
    Chinese(but I'm a Taiwanese)
    No problem lingobingo. I kind of replied in too much of a hurry.:p
    I just went through and thought about the entire thread, and I think I really get it now.
    Thank you all for sharing your knowledge of English.:)
     
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