Harry looked down at his empty gold plate. He had only just realized how hungry he was. The pumpkin pasties seemed ages ago. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

It seems like ago is the peripheral modifier (CGEL,p436) as the examples in Webster’s. What I’d like to know, now, is if ages ahead can be a possible noun phrase that has peripheral modifier as above?

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    I smiled out loud once I saw the details of this question. How creative you are! I'm now too curious if that is possible, though I know that a common expression for this would be "years ahead". Nov 25, 2013 at 14:34
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    I'm curious to know more about this notion of "peripheral modifier", and how CGEL parses what looks like an adverbial where an adjectival complement is ordinarily called for. Nov 25, 2013 at 14:48
  • Whatever it is, it can be omitted. "Four minutes? That's ages."
    – Tim S.
    Nov 25, 2013 at 20:01
  • "The pumpkin pasties seemed ages ago" is a special pattern whereby a noun is equated with a time, that you should probably avoid in everyday use unless you are very comfortable with it. Another example is something like (said by someone reminiscing about a past vacation trip to France): "Paris seems like only yesterday", where "Paris" basically stands for the whole idea "That I went to Paris"; i.e. "It seems like only yesterday that I went to Paris". Noun phrases can also be equated with times in sentences like, "those acid-washed jeans are (so) yesterday".
    – Kaz
    Nov 25, 2013 at 21:00
  • @StoneyB, I post a question on ELU after your comment for deeper understanding for this construction. There's not much clue for it on those books, so I'm expecting finer explanations on there.
    – Listenever
    Nov 26, 2013 at 1:11

5 Answers 5


StoneyB's answer ("Ages away") works for looking at events relative to "now" fine (and carries a little ambiguity, possible to work into past or future.) For looking at events from perspective of time you can use ages later

Ages later, the breakfast came at last.

If you apply today, you will get a temporary permit sometimes after all your hair turns white, and a permanent license ages later.

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    Yes. And if you're speaking of timespans, ages to come: "I haven't had breakfast for ages", "I won't get breakfast for ages to come". Nov 25, 2013 at 14:58
  • If I have to wait that long, I probably might not want that license. ;) Nov 25, 2013 at 15:06

The corresponding hyperbolic phrase in this particular syntactic context would be "ages away":

Breakfast seemed ages away.

That, however, could be used to express either prospective or retrospective remoteness.


This is very formal and antiquated, but Robert Frost used "ages hence" in The Road Not Taken:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:


If we are referring to the far future, we might say "ages to come".

In the ages to come, what will our descendants think of these bulky laptops?

If saying "ages ahead" you must refer to what the subject is ahead of.

The scientist's research was ages ahead of that of his peers.

(In this case we are not referring to the actual period of time, but how long we think it would take his peers to reach the level he is at.)


"Ages ahead" can be correct use, in particular scenarios. That said, as noted in other answers, typical use would be some other variant.

If I were to use "ages ahead", it would probably be comparing two things rather than referring to actual time:

According to many myths, Atlantis was technologically ages ahead of all other civilizations at the time.

The sentence compares Atlantis to other civilizations that would have supposedly existed at the same time. It claims that Atlantis had technology that was massively more developed, as if from the future, despite being at the same time.

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