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Can we change "in" to "over" (and the other way around), and "last" to "past" (and the other way around) without changing the meaning at all in this particular sentence? If not, how does the meaning change?

Life has changed a lot in/over the last/past thirty years.

2 Answers 2

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Yes, those changes are grammatically valid, and will make no significant differences in meaning.

More specifically all of:

  • Life has changed a lot in the last thirty years.
  • Life has changed a lot over the last thirty years.
  • Life has changed a lot in the past thirty years.
  • Life has changed a lot over the past thirty years.

are valid, natural, and mean essentially the same thing.

The use of "past" perhaps stresses the past a bit more, but that is debatable. The use of "over" suggests a process of change more, while "in" suggests more of a then vs now comparison, but these are very fine nuances, than many may not even notice. Some might even disagree with these nuances of meaning.

The sentences may be treated as interchangeable.

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  • I agree that, if there is a very subtle difference, "over" suggests a gradual change and "in" is more of a then vs. now comparison. Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 19:34
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For all intents and purposes, all four mean exactly the same thing.

Life has changed a lot in the last 30 years.

Life has changed a lot over the last 30 years.

Life has changed a lot in the past 30 years.

Life has changed a lot over the past 30 years.

Depending on what standard you embrace, you often don't spell out numbers greater than 9.

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  • In prose, with no other digits in the text, it is not at all uncommon to spell out numbers under a hundred, and sometimes round numbers higher than that. Commented Jun 10, 2022 at 19:02

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