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This sentence uses inside with time. What is the difference between in two minutes and within two minutes?

Brentford led inside two minutes. Mads Roerslev whips a perfect low cross in from the right, and Keane Lewis-Potter cushions a volley home.

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  • The implied context is "with less than two minutes remaining". Within two minutes of the end. In this instance, time is counting down, the seconds "ticking away".
    – TimR
    Dec 30, 2023 at 15:45
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    That example is "inside two minutes remaining" the word remaining makes a difference. The OP's example is pretty clearly "two minutes from the start.
    – James K
    Dec 30, 2023 at 21:53
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    (one reason for that is that you don't know how many minutes are actually remaining because "injury time" will be added, which may add 5-10 minutes to the match)
    – James K
    Dec 30, 2023 at 21:55
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    Dear Nyambek - you must get in the habit of saying where you get your quotes from. Dec 31, 2023 at 0:24
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    Perhaps there is a dialect issue here then.
    – James K
    Dec 31, 2023 at 7:27

2 Answers 2

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inside

Merriam Webster:

2 : WITHIN inside an hour

Cambridge Dictionary: AmE and BrE

if you do something or something happens inside (of) a particular time or limit, you do it or it happens in less than that amount of time:
The work should be finished inside a week.

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  • To clarify, do you understand this as "2 minutes from the end" or "2 minutes from the start" (see comments on the question)
    – James K
    Dec 30, 2023 at 20:51
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    @JamesK They are leading within two minutes as of some time period. The beginning of the game or the second half.
    – Lambie
    Dec 30, 2023 at 20:55
  • The question did not address which end is timed, only the difference of prepositions, which this answer answers. Dec 30, 2023 at 23:36
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I will answer the question based on American usage, which, unlike British usage, would normally require singular verbs with collective subjects.

Brentford leads for two minutes.

This means that the time Brentford has been leading totals about two minutes. The strong default understanding is that the speaker is talking about the specific continuous two-minute period that includes and ends with the moment of speaking.

Brentford leads in two minutes.

This would be a strange sentence but appears to assert as already established that Brentford will be leading after a two-minute period has elapsed.

Out of context, "in two minutes" is ambiguous and is the default expression for two different meanings. It can mean (1) that an activity or process covers about a two-minute period, or (2) that something will not take place until after about a two-minute period has elapsed. The second usage is probably more common and so assumed to be the meaning unless something else indicates that the first meaning is meant.

The first meaning is usually possible only for verbs and verb phrases that describe an end point for the period described or a completion at the end of that time period; however, it is possible to use "in" for this meaning if the preposition "in" refers to a definite time period, perhaps as an analogy with physical location. As a result, you can say:

Brentford leads in the final two minutes of the game.

This locates the time of Brentford's lead somewhere in the final two minutes of the game.

Since "Brentford leads" does not describe and endpoint and "two minutes" does not describe a specific "location" in time, "in two minutes" will be understood to mean "after a two-minute period has elapsed." Again, this would be quite an odd thing to assert in this case.

(*)Brentford leads within two minutes.

This would normally mean that Brentford leads within the last two minutes of the game; however, many speakers would find this phrasing odd.

The expression "within two minutes" has the same meaning and same restrictions as the first meaning of "in two minutes," except that it expresses the maximum limits of the activity rather than the approximate length. It means "in less than two minutes."

Normally, you cannot use a phrase like "within two minutes" for a verb that doesn't describe an endpoint. You normally cannot say: *"Our team led within two minutes"; however, since use of the word "within" implies a specific outer limit by itself, you might reinterpret "two minutes" to mean "the final two minutes of the game."

Brentford leads inside two minutes.

This means Brentford is leading with less than two minutes left in the game and is normal language for sports commentary.

This temporal use of "inside" has exactly the same rules as "within"; however, its connotation is more about being on one side of a boundary than about being less than some maximum period. As a result, it is very easy to understand that "two minutes" expresses that boundary and refers to the two-minute mark as the clock winds down to the end of the game.

The particular sentence has a distinct flavor of informal sports commentary and might not be readily understandable by those unfamiliar with timed sports.

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    It wasn't about anything else than the expression: inside. Why you would bother with the collective noun in AmE and BrE is beyond me here.
    – Lambie
    Dec 30, 2023 at 19:49
  • I mentioned that because I had to change the quote. Jan 2 at 20:42

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