I thought that 'in' shouldn't be used for defining time period in the past, instead 'after' or 'later' should be used

Excerption from the book:

In half an hour Lake called us again (past simple)


Can I use 'in' for defining time in the past? If it's some exception, I would appreciate your examples of these cases

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    Authors are not required to follow grammatical "rules". Any native English speaker will read Lovecraft's sentence and understand, without giving it any thought, that his intended meaning is "After thirty minutes had passed, Lake called us again." Authors often make choices for reasons of style and rhythm—they don't write with a book of grammar at their side. Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 19:15
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    I agee with @P.E.Dant. The normal expression I would expect would be "Half an hour later". To me, using the expression "in half an hour", which is normally confined to non-past use, gives the narrative an immediacy similar to using the historic present (even though the writer did not do that).
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


In half an hour does not refer there to a past time. It refers to a duration of time unconnected to any particular timeline. In other words, "in half an hour" means "within a span of time lasting 30 minutes".

In only one day, they had the barn built with the help of their community.

I had a bad headache yesterday and took some ibuprofen tablets. In twenty minutes, I was feeling better.

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