I have a question about a sentence pattern. Sentences along the lines of these:

The store is a half hour's drive away.
The park is ten minutes' walk from my house.

, could be found on the web. Is the use of of lengths of time to denote distances slightly non-standard?

  • 3
    It is entirely standard in American English, and in my opinion, a far more useful measure than distance. What makes you think it is non-standard?
    – choster
    Aug 12, 2016 at 0:53
  • 2
    It is not distance that is measured here but duration, and there is nothing non-standard about the usage, @meatie . Aug 12, 2016 at 1:14
  • We could also say it without the possessive "a half-hour drive away" and "a ten-minute walk". We wouldn't say "a three minutes' egg".
    – TimR
    Aug 12, 2016 at 10:38
  • See "Genitive of Measure" on p. 176 here: sjsu.edu/faculty/hahn.koo/teaching/ling115/papers/…
    – TimR
    Aug 12, 2016 at 10:47

1 Answer 1


I think it makes complete sense to measure the distance to something in terms of the time taken to get there, and in most cases this is what other people really want to know.

There is a big difference between something that is 5 miles away though a busy downtown area and 5 miles away on a highway. When you tell someone how far away the park is from your house, they don't really care whether it is 2 miles or 5 miles away, but they do care about whether it will take 2 minutes or 30 minutes to get there.

Astronomers and physicists also measure distances in light years!

This is totally standard and very common practice.

  • Thanks for your answer! We hope you'll answer more questions, and provide example or references, if possible, to make your answers useful to subsequent visitors. An example of measurement in light years would be interesting here. Aug 12, 2016 at 23:04

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