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How can I refer to the year 1950 in terms of centuries?

For instance,

At/in the middle of 20th century, there were great improvements in the transport system.

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    It's always in, never at (and you need the 20th in your version). You could also use the mid-20th century as a shorter version (it's equally acceptable in all written and spoken contexts). Neither version particularly identifies the specific year 1950 (as opposed to, say, 1945 or 1957). – FumbleFingers Dec 12 '14 at 15:42
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You can be "at a point", or "in a region". Thus, you can be "at the midpoint" of something, or "in the middle" of something. You can also be "at an hour" or "on a day".

The following options sound natural to my (American) ear:

  • "Halfway through the twentieth century"
  • "At the midpoint of the twentieth century"
  • "In the middle of the twentieth century"

The following options are grammatically correct. They are awkward, because they force the reader to do a lot of math:

  • "After five decades of the twentieth century"
  • "At the end of the fifth decade of the twentieth century"
  • "Five years after the end of World War II"
  • "At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of the penultimate year of the second decade of the twentieth century.

The following option does not sound natural, but was used as the title of a funny short film:

  • what about the end of the century ? is it ok if I say : in the end of the 20th century? – Maher Dec 13 '14 at 10:46
  • A "beginning" or an "end" defines a point, not an interval. So you would say "at the end of the 20th century", or "at the beginning of the 21st century". – Jasper Dec 13 '14 at 16:25
  • You could refer to the "turn of the century". Whether this phrase is a point or an interval depends on whether it is used as a stand-alone noun phrase, or as an adjective phrase. As a stand-alone noun phrase, it is a point. As an adjective phrase, it is an interval. Thus, "at the turn of the century," but "Cocaine was legal in turn-of-the-century America." – Jasper Dec 13 '14 at 16:30

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