Is the preposition in only used with the future tenses when talking about time? For example:

I will finish my project in two weeks.

I am aware that in can be use with the perfect tenses in the sense of for. For example:

I haven't seen you in ages.

But what about the following sentence?

I hurt my back badly, but it got better in a few weeks.

Would it be more natural to say

I hurt my back badly, but It got better after a few weeks?

  • in with temporal objects expresses a span of time, i.e., it means within the stated interval. Thus "in two weeks" means some time within the span of fourteen days. The usage is independent of when that span of time occurs, past or future. Your first sentence says that it took no more than a few weeks for your back to heal; your second sentence says it took at least a few weeks to heal.
    – user105719
    Dec 20, 2019 at 22:46

1 Answer 1


Is the preposition “in” only used with the future tenses when talking about time?

Noooooo, I don't think so. Other than the difference between "in X weeks" and "after X weeks", which user105719 pointed out correctly, I think the use of "in" in all your sentences is correct.

For example, we often say things like these during job interviews:

[Describing a task/responsibility from a previous job] "The draft had to be completed within 48 hours. I was able to finish it in 13.

There are many examples of the use of "in" in the past tense when talking about time.

I finished/completed/earned my degree in less than 4 years. [Many people will use "within" instead of "in less than"]

In the period 2009-2010, Canada experienced historic levels of unemployment.

He ran 3 kilometers in 30 minutes yesterday.

He lost 21 pounds in 3 weeks. That's just crazy!

"In Three Days, the Hallmark Channel Managed to Upset Pretty Much Everyone." - The Wall Street Journal

"While the early demonstrations were legally-approved marches, almost everyone who has attended protests in recent months has been at an event deemed unlawful." - CNN

"DeBoer Has Learned a Lot From Allen in 11 Months." - Sports Illustrated

  • I still cannot get the difference between "in" and "after" when used in the past Dec 21, 2019 at 7:31
  • 2
    @DmytroO'Hope Okay. I think you should plug in real numbers in place of "few" to understand the difference. "I hurt my back badly. But it got better after 2 weeks." This means your back healed after 14 days. On the 14th day of the injury, you were not fully healed. On the 15th day, you were back to normal. "I hurt my back badly. But it got better in 2 weeks." This means your back may have healed by the 10th day, 11th day or the 12th day. You don't know the exact number of days it took for your back to heal, but you are sure it healed in less than 14 days. Does this help?
    – AIQ
    Dec 21, 2019 at 7:44
  • Yes, thank you! The comment made all the difference Dec 21, 2019 at 8:49

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