Is there any difference in the meaning of these two phrases: 'in the distance' and 'from a distance'?

And the following two sentences sound different?

He looks good in the distance.
He looks good from a distance.


4 Answers 4


The difference is in your starting point; where you measure the distance from.

You use in the distance when you start measuring the distance from where you are standing:

I could see him in the distance, 10km away from me.

You use from a distance when you start measuring from the object you are looking at, in this case where 'he' is standing:

I can see him from a distance - I am 10km away from him.


I saw a boat in the distance. (The boat was far away from my location.)

in the distance is itself almost a "location" that one sees far away. Where was the boat? It was in the distance.

I saw a boat from a distance. (I was far away from the boat when I saw it.)


"I saw a boat in the distance." - I think it emphasizes the boat, which is far away.

"I saw a boat from a distance." - It emphasizes the action. I perform this action "SAW" far away from the boat.

  1. From a distance (not near) e.g. From a distance he ​looks a ​bit like Johnny Depp.

  2. In a distance (far away) On a ​clear ​day you can ​see the ​temple in the distance.

Reference: Cambridge Dictionary

Personally, I think "From a distance" refers to something that is not close to you, while "In a distant" suggests that something is far away from you. I can't clearly tell you the difference, but I can feel the distinction.

  • 1
    So what is the difference between 'not near' or 'not close' and 'far away'? Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 8:54

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