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Which preposition goes better with the below statement?

1: In the past few years I have learnt a lot about super cars.

2: Over the past few years I have learnt a lot about super cars.

  • 9
    They're both valid, and there's no real difference in meaning. But arguably in emphasizes that for the past few years you've been doing something you weren't doing before that, whereas over emphasizes that you've been doing it from some point in time a few years ago, right up to the present moment (and may well continue doing it into the future). – FumbleFingers Jun 13 '14 at 22:25
  • I would prefer "over" or "during". – user3169 Jun 14 '14 at 3:14
  • @user3169 What if all his learning took place in an intensive, one-day super car immersion course? – anotherdave Apr 27 '17 at 20:14
  • I just wanted to ask this question. You save me my labor. – Zhang Oct 17 '18 at 2:17
7

To expand on FumbleFingers' comment:

I don't think there is any official rule, but to me, "over the past..." has always implied a continuous process, while "in the past..." implies discrete (separate) events. So one would say "I learned to drive over the past three years," but "I took my drivers' test sometime in the past year."

Where it gets a bit tricky is that multiple discrete events can be described as one continuous trend - so you could say either "I had met him several times in the past year," or "I had met him several times over the past year." What sounds better in these cases is, as far as I can tell, quite random, so I unfortunately can't give a rule, but either is correct.

For the example you gave, you described a process (the process of learned about supercars), so I would use "over" in this case.

  • Watercleave why didn't you use present perfect in 'I learned to drive over the past three years' and why did you use simple past? What do you think is the difference between 'I learned to drive over the past three years and 'I have learned to drive over the past three years'? Ddo you then not see a contradiction between using simple past which means the even has ended and then you use 'over the past three years' which means last 3 years years starting from today which includes the present? Please clarify. – Policewala May 9 '16 at 4:45
-1

I don't think there is an 'official' way of saying this, but I would say that "over the past few years" sounds more natural to me, coming from England. It's your call really, since everyone will understand what you're saying regardless of which of these ways you say it.

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