# “Over three occasions” – How many times?

"Over three occasions, each of 3 nights, a total of 21,830 moths were collected, representing more than 1250 morphospecies."

"Over three occasions". Is that just three times, or more than three times?

Over, here, means "across, spanning, in such a way as to cover". It is not the only preposition that works for that, though — another one would be on. And it is indeed advisable for you to replace it with an on to see the meaning more clearly and not have this be a garden-path sentence.

If over here meant "above", you would still need a preposition for "across, spanning", but you'd be missing it, and the sentence would stop making sense. You do not collect things period of time, and you do not collect things some occasions. You collect things over the period of time, or on the occasions.

So:

• Over three occasions, each of 3 nights, a total of 21,830 moths were collected.
• On three occasions, each of 3 nights, a total of 21,830 moths were collected.

This means three occasions exactly.

• On over three occassions, each of 3 nights, a total of 21,830 moths were collected.
• Over over three occassions, each of 3 nights, a total of 21,830 moths were collected.

This means more than three occasions. The last one, of course, is weird, and should perhaps be avoided, especially since there's a less weird alternative right there.

Three times, lasting three days every time.

A total of nine days.

Hence a three-day activity repeated thrice.

Over here does not mean above but something that happens over a period of time or is distributed over a period of time. So it refers to the progress that happened spanning the three occasions.

Over time, things grew fine...

• Actually, the three-day activity took place thrice, but was repeated only twice. :-) – Phil M Jones Jan 13 '14 at 9:22
• Go ahead! confuse the poor guy further!!!..:) – Preetie Sekhon Jan 13 '14 at 9:24
• how to confirm the meaning of over ,here, is not the "above".Thanks – user62161 Jan 13 '14 at 9:28
• @user62161 - Context. That's often the only way to tell which meaning of a word applies. – J.R. Jan 13 '14 at 11:13

"Over" has (at least) two distinct meanings: It can mean "more than", or it can mean "spanning". Now that you bring it up, I can see how it can be confusing.

If you wrote, "We waited over three days", that would mean more than three days. But if you wrote, "I considered this over a three-day period", that would mean that you did it for exactly three days.

If you want to make clear that you mean "more than", you can add the word "for". Like, "I considered this for over three days" would clearly mean that you meant more than 3 days, while "I considered this over three days" could be ambiguous. Adding a word like "span" or "period" -- "I considered this over a three-day period" -- makes clear that you mean "spanning" and not "more than".