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1.My watch is by about 12 minutes fast.

2.My watch is fast by about 12 minutes.

Which position is better for the completement "by about 12 minutes"?

  • Small correction - in the first one, there's no need for the word "by" – Phylyp Mar 18 '17 at 9:57
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Context, context, context :-)

It all depends on the context in which these statements are being uttered.

One conversation could be like:

Q: "I knew we'd be early! Just how fast is your watch?"

A: "My watch is about 12 minutes fast."

While another one could be:

Q: "We're early. Is there something wrong with your watch?"

A: "Oh, I just remembered, my watch is fast by about 12 minutes."

While the response "My watch is about 12 minutes fast" tends to be more commonly used and heard (partly due to its brevity), the other one is also fine, based on the context. Note that for both conversations, the responses could be switched around without it being incorrect.

However, notice the slight shift in emphasis - when saying "my watch is about 12 minutes fast" we're communicating the magnitude of error first (12 minutes), whereas when stating "my watch is fast by about 12 minutes" we're first stating the fact that there is an error (the watch is fast) before going into more detail about its magnitude.


Edit: Added the following note at fixer1234's recommendation.

A Note About 'by'

In the original question, the first sentence is given as:

My watch is by about 12 minutes fast.

However, this would be grammatically incorrect due to be presence of "by". In the second sentence the "by" goes with "fast" and not with "about" (i.e. the phrase is "fast by" and not "by about"). That's why the word "by" should be omitted in the first sentence, leaving just "about".

  • Why can't I use "by" in the first sentence? – Min Thu Mar 18 '17 at 16:56
  • "My watch is by about 12 minutes fast." would be grammatically incorrect, due to be presence of "by". In the second sentence the "by" goes with "fast" (i.e. "fast by") and not with "about". That's why the "by" is omitted in the first sentence. – Phylyp Mar 18 '17 at 17:00
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    Good answer. Edit your comment into it since it's good information and directly relevant to the question.. – fixer1234 Mar 18 '17 at 17:47

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