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Why is in the first sentence the preposition from but in the second sentence is the preposition in ? The ending phrase is the same in both sentences and they have got the same meaning. Am I correct?

  1. Tonight we've got Mariela with us to talk about her favourite films from the last ten years.
  2. It was the most unusual film in the last ten years.

P.S.: Source: Total English Elementary, Students' Book page 157, Recording 9.4

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In the abstract, "from" and "in" are nearly interchangeable in those two sentences from a strictly grammatical perspective (either could grammatically be used, although there would be different nuances in meaning). However, the usage you show "sounds" right" to a native speaker in terms of which of the two words to use for each case. That is because of what we would assume are the missing words behind the meaning:

Tonight we've got Mariela with us to talk about her favourite films [selected] from [those she saw in] the last ten years.

The "from" would refer to the collection from which they were selected more than the time period explicitly mentioned. The time period defines the collection.

It was the most unusual film [produced] in the last ten years.

Here, "in" refers directly to the time period and means "during".

Note: there are various interpretations and word choices people might assume for the missing words. The point here isn't the literal choice of the missing words, but the general sense of why "from" and "in" seem logical. "From" would seem to refer to selecting from some collection defined by the last ten years, while "in" would seem to relate to the film becoming available during the last ten years (direct reference to the time period).

  • Just a tiny little quibble - the first sentence is more likely referring to films created or released within the last 10 years than the films Mariela watched in the last 10 years. Mariela might have watched a 15 year old movie yesterday, but that would not be included in "films from the last 10 years" (in my opinion). – ColleenV Mar 31 '17 at 21:53
  • You are right that you need a verb in order to use in. If you add produced or made it does switch the phrase from adjectival to adverbial. If you are qualifying films, then in simply doesn't work. It was the most unusual film in the last ten years simply does not sound idiomatic, at least not to my native British ear, unless you add a verb participle in front of it. – WS2 Mar 31 '17 at 22:04
  • @ColleenV, can't argue with your quibble. I was going for the general sense of "from" referring to a collection of some sort rather than a precise meaning of the missing words. – fixer1234 Mar 31 '17 at 22:28
  • @fixer1234 That is why you need a verb before the preposition in. One needs to know whether the speaker is talking about films made in, produced in, or watched in the last ten years. Simply saying films in the last ten years makes no sense. Films of/from the last ten years, would imply ones that had been made or released during that time. – WS2 Apr 1 '17 at 7:09
  • @WS2, yeah, I think that ambiguity you describe is the underlying problem. The sentence examples in the question are typical of what people would commonly say. Listeners fill in the blanks. It's hard to explain the sentences as written in strictly grammatical terms because key elements are filled in by the listener. – fixer1234 Apr 1 '17 at 7:17
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In does not seem to me a good choice for either 1 or 2.

Though anyone would know what it meant, it does not sound idiomatic to me.

However from or of would work in either case.

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    I disagree. "In" sounds right. It implies a time within a time. – SovereignSun Mar 31 '17 at 17:19
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    Consider: "I haven't seen any films in the last ten years - I prefer to read a book." and "I haven't seen any films from the last ten years - I only watch films made more than a decade ago." – ColleenV Mar 31 '17 at 19:34
  • @ColleenV In does work in your example. It is part of an adverbial phrase qualifying seen. Similarly I haven't eaten any food in the last three days. But the OP's example employs in as part of an adjectival phrase qualifying the noun film. That is quite different. It needs to be of or from. – WS2 Mar 31 '17 at 21:57
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"From" indicates the point in space or time that something starts.

"In" expresses a period of time where something happens.

  • But where is a point in time in the 1st sentence? Why is not the preposition in in 1st sentence? – Ľubomír Masarovič Mar 31 '17 at 18:44

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