Consider these two phrases:

"from a distance"
"from the distance"

Is there a difference in these two terms? When would you use which?


A distance means very far away.

The distance generally refers to as far away as you can see IMO (some people might disagree on exactly where "the distance" is).

So if you say, "He came from a distance." It means he came from somewhere far away. A more natural way to word that would be, "He came from quite a distance."

On the other hand, if you say "He came from the distance." That means that he came from just about as far as you can see (also implying you could see him). Perhaps a better way to word the same situation would be, "He appeared in the distance."

  • 3
    It might be worth noting that “from a distance” is a fairly common and established phrase, while “from the distance” sounds a little awkward outside of certain specialized contexts, such as: We can determine the elevation from the distance between the two points. – J.R. Nov 15 '18 at 8:56

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