What's the difference between 'hasn't done something for 3 years' and 'hasn't done something in 3 years'? For example,

  1. He hasn't played the piano for 3 years.

  2. He hasn't played the piano in 3 years.

Is there any difference between them?

1 Answer 1


There's been a significant shift in (American more than British) usage in recent decades...

enter image description here

...but the choice of preposition doesn't affect the meaning. Obviously this kind of usage shift doesn't reflect some "new" meaning that people never needed to express years ago.

Note that at least some people will be (consciously or unconsciously) "attuned" to this language shift, and they may well thus tend to categorise the earlier style as more "literary, formal". Not because that categorisation ever was true - but if you usually read the older version in older texts, but hear and use the newer version in conversations today, that's how things tend to end up.

  • the answer is just american vs british?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 14:36
  • No.It's just that the usage shift started earlier and is more pronounced in the Google Books AmE corpus. This is the BrE usage chart, showing that the same change is happening in the UK. Because of the Internet, etc., English is becoming more homogeneous across the world, so as a rule even if there are US/UK differences, they tend to disappear over time. Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 14:43
  • Notwithstanding the final paragraph in my answer, it's worth noting that modern technology gives more people more opportunities to write "searchable" text. Which naturally leads to things like Google Books reporting an increase in "informal" usages. But speech (not writing) is the basis of language, so the net result is any usage shift I might illustrate with a Google Books chart is in reality probably much more advanced than the charts would suggest. Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 14:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .