over/in/for the past twenty years

vanillasky1210

New Member
Chinese
Hey guys! This is my first thread in this forum, pretty excited~~~
anyways, so I am writing this essay, "over the past 20 years, the government has been..." and I suddenly realized I have never really known which prep. to use, "over the past 20 years", "in the past 20 years"?or "for the past years"? I seem to come across all of them in different cintext, but never know the difference (if there is any). Could anyone explain to me? Thanks~~~
 
  • MichaelW

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    To me they imply...

    Over the past 20 years something has been happening but not necessarily regularly or deliberately.
    For the past 20 years something has been happening regularly.
    In the past 20 years something (maybe one single thing) has happened and the action is completed.

    Over the past 20 years the govenment has been unstable (from time to time).
    For the past 20 years the government has been unstable (continually).
    In the past 20 years the government has been unstable (on one or more occasions but that instability may well be over).
     
    Last edited:

    chasfh

    Senior Member
    English - US
    You could also say:

    During the past twenty years the government has been unstable.

    This is closer to "Over" than "For".
     

    vanillasky1210

    New Member
    Chinese
    So...basically, if I am not sure whether the particular thing has ended or happens regularly or not, i can use all "over", "for", "in" and "during"? hmmmmmm so many choices:confused:
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    The choice you make does depend on what you are saying about the government. I agree with the chart of their meanings that MichaelW laid out above. As all the prepositions are slightly different, you will be saying different things depending on what you use.

    It does seem that you should have some idea about what was happening if you are going to write a sentence about the instability of the government. However, if you really don't know, "during" seems to me the vaguest term. It may mean that the instability was continuous, or that it happened from time to time. Normally, you would specify which it was.

    If you put the words during over in the search box at the top of the page, you will find a list of of previous threads that discuss the difference between those words, and some that include the other prepositions as well.
     

    vanillasky1210

    New Member
    Chinese
    hey guys, thanks for your answers. I get it by using different prepositions, the sentence's emphasis is slightly different. But I just don't feel there is that much of a difference. Can I use whatever pops up in my head? :(Okay here is a context (finally...)

    Over/For/In/During the past 3 years, the government has changed its immigration policy for three times. It is predicted that there won't be any major change this year.

    OR

    Over/For/In/During the past 3 years, the government has changed its immigration policy for three times. So it is hard to tell if there will be any major change this year.

    My question is in the above two sentences, which preposition is the most suitable one?
    Thanks in advance~~~
     

    LQZ

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Over the last several days, Ms. Giffords has repeatedly given nonverbal responses to her doctors’ commands,...

    For the last three days, Ms. Giffords has repeatedly gripped hands or flashed a finger after doctors prompted her.

    Dear all,

    These two sentences in above are taken from the same article in the New York Times. I am wondering whether for and over are interchangeable in two cases. Could you explain to me? Thanks.


    LQZ
     

    EdisonBhola

    Senior Member
    Korean
    Dear all,

    These two sentences in above are taken from the same article in the New York Times. I am wondering whether for and over are interchangeable in two cases. Could you explain to me? Thanks.


    LQZ

    1) Over the last several days, Ms. Giffords has repeatedly given nonverbal responses to her doctors’ commands,...

    2) For the last three days, Ms. Giffords has repeatedly gripped hands or flashed a finger after doctors prompted her.

    Let me try, though I'm not a native English speaker. :)

    In this particular pair of sentences, "over" and "for" can both be used with little difference in meaning. But if one had to pick either "over" or "for", "for" would be the better choice because of the key word "repeatedly". "For the last three years" suggested that the action taken was continual rather than sporadic.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.
     
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