pls advise the difference in usage of the following prepositions with DISTANCE. There is little info in grammar, I'd be glad even just to hear the ideas of native speakers as they feel it. (My assumptions in brackets)

1)In the/a distance (mostly vague remoteness)

2)On (a) distance (of) (physical figure with usually accurate figures, km, m..)

3)At the/a distance of (the same? physical figure with km, m..)


1)On a clear day you can see the temple in the distance./In a distance of 300 meters a number of tents housed a radio operator and helicopter pilots whose helicopters MI-8 stood motionless not very far away.

2)a picturesque valley of East Carpathians' foothills at a height of 350 m above sea level on distance of 105 km from L'viv./On a distance of 100 meters there is a concert hall Dzintari located and close to the lat is a Jomas street.

3)credit for land purchase is provided for land located in Kyiv or at the distance of 40 km.*/Particularly at a distance of three feet.

The examples are taken from the web randomly.Maybe some sounds unnaturally?

pls also advise when to use articles A or THE with DISTANCE.

Thanks in advance.

  • There's nothing peculiar about distance here. The same applies to [all?] other "quantifiable attributes" (at the age of 17, at a depth of 6 feet, in the range 1 to 99,...). Often it's entirely arbitrary (stylistic choice) whether to use the/a definite article or the/an indefinite one, but we're more likely to use the when the specific referent is well-known and/or conceptually easy to grasp (so it's more likely to be the ago of 20, the size of a football, but a depth of 27 metres. a pressure of 33 bars). Sep 14, 2019 at 16:35
  • ...In the distance is a slightly different construction, because distance isn't "quantified". It has to be referenced using the definite article. Sep 14, 2019 at 16:38
  • so much thankful for your full reply!Now it's clear)
    – Kate
    Sep 15, 2019 at 10:18

2 Answers 2


The only phrases which seem to me common and idiomatic are:

in the distance (which uses "distance" as a vague term)


at a distance of.

After a (specific) "distance of" has been introduced, it can then be referred to as "the distance", in accordance with the normal use of indefinite and definite articles.

There is also an idiom "go the distance", meaning "carry out some lengthy activity to completion".

  • thanks so much for your feedback)
    – Kate
    Sep 15, 2019 at 10:19
  • "at a distance of" is perfectly idiomatic and is used to describe how far something or someone is.

  • The church is at a distance of 20 miles southwest of my house.

  • "in the distance" is the most common way of saying that someone or something is far from you. This doesn't imply any measurements.

  • Can you see the boat in the distance?

  • "on the distance of" is very rare and I mostly met in sports. This speaks about what came to be on a specific distance, talking about measurements here.

  • The car reached 350 km per hour on a distance of just 10 km. Its capabilities of accelerating are magnificent.

There is also a very uncommon usage of "up to a distance of" which means to a certain degree further away from either of the sides.

  • The gap will soon stretch up to a distance of more than a mile if we do nothing.
  • thank you so much for excellent examples and explanation!!)
    – Kate
    Sep 15, 2019 at 10:57

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