13

What's the meaning of "in 4" in the below sentence?

We drove home, and made it to the suburbs of Philadelphia which normally takes about 20 minutes in 4. We timed it.

  • 7
    The journey took 4 minutes instead of the usual 20 minutes. – SteveES Jun 8 '17 at 12:52
  • 3
    You could rearrange this: "We drove home, and made it to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 4 (minutes), which normally takes about 20 minutes." – user3169 Jun 8 '17 at 17:25
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    I'd hope that the decrease in commute time is due to the roads being clear of (normally very congested) traffic, not due to going 5x the speed limit! – BradC Jun 8 '17 at 21:09
41

I believe it should be punctuated with commas:

We drove home, and made it to the suburbs of Philadelphia, which normally takes about 20 minutes, in 4. We timed it.

"In 4" omits the word "minutes": we made it in four minutes. This means the trip took four minutes.

  • 3
    Ironically, I'd get rid of that first comma (found in the original), and I'd be inclined to use a dash where you put your commas. We drove home and made it to the suburbs of Philadelphia – which normally takes about twenty minutes – in four. We timed it. – J.R. Jun 9 '17 at 9:09
  • Not an expert, so just a suggestion, but I was taught that when wrapping text in commas (or brackets or dashes), one should be able to drop that clause entirely without affecting the readability of what remains; that would in this case leave We drove home, and made it to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 4. We timed it. which doesn't really improve things. How about We drove home, and made it to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 4 minutes rather than the usual 20. We timed it. – Spratty Jun 9 '17 at 12:47
  • @J.R. in either case, it's a parenthetical expression, and so needs both punctuation marks (whether commas or dashes). Dashes are also harder to use correctly — for example, even you used a hyphen instead of the em-dash which properly sets off a parenthetical. ;) – fectin Jun 9 '17 at 13:22
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    @fectin No, he used en dashes set off by regular spaces, which is a perfectly proper way to set off parentheticals, most commonly used in British English. Conversely, you used an em dash set off by regular spaces, which is not recommended by anyone but AP, as far as I know: em dashes, most common in American English overall, are generally set closed or flanked by hair spaces, not spaced out regularly. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 9 '17 at 14:03

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