"In + duration" to talk about past events

• 21-Oct-2009, 04:09
Snappy
"In + duration" to talk about past events
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English explains that "in followed by a time period is more often used to talk about future events • He'll be here in a few minutes."

Can't we use "in" to talk about the durations of events that were already finished or completed?
Is the following expression? "We solved the problem in three hours."
• 21-Oct-2009, 04:25
stuartnz
Re: "In + duration" to talk about past events
Quote:

Originally Posted by Snappy

Can't we use "in" to talk about the durations of events that were already finished or completed?
Is the following expression? "We solved the problem in three hours."

I am not a teacher, but the short answer is, yes. Your example is fine.
• 21-Oct-2009, 06:50
PROESL
Re: "In + duration" to talk about past events
Quote:

Originally Posted by Snappy
The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English explains that "in followed by a time period is more often used to talk about future events • He'll be here in a few minutes."

Can't we use "in" to talk about the durations of events that were already finished or completed?
Is the following expression? "We solved the problem in three hours."

Yes, you are correct. I agree with stuartnz.
• 21-Oct-2009, 08:35
svartnik
Re: "In + duration" to talk about past events
Quote:

Originally Posted by Snappy
Can't we use "in" to talk about the durations of events that were already finished or completed?

We can, and your dictionary does not rule otherwise.
• 25-Oct-2009, 04:20
Snappy
Re: "In + duration" to talk about past events
Let me confirm one thing.

"We solved the problem in three hours." Doesn't this sometimes mean that we solved the problem during (within) three hours, depending on the context?
• 25-Oct-2009, 04:31
PROESL
Re: "In + duration" to talk about past events
Quote:

Originally Posted by Snappy
Let me confirm one thing.

"We solved the problem in three hours." Doesn't this sometimes mean that we solved the problem during (within) three hours, depending on the context?

It means that no more than three hours elapsed before you solved the problem.

You could say that it means "during a three-hour time frame or less", but we would not express it in this way.

Dialog to illustrate "in three hours"

At 1:00

We have three hours to finish this department report? Do you think we can do it?

Yes, I think we can definitely get it done in three hours or less.

At 3:00

This is great. It's three o'clock, and we've finished the report. We got it done in two hours.

The requirement was to have it done "within three hours" or no more than a three-hour period.

I would not say that it's a good idea to use "during" this way, as in "We finished it during three hours".

You could say "We finished it during the afternoon".

We worked on it during the afternoon and got it done by 5:00.
• 25-Oct-2009, 04:32
Raymott
Re: "In + duration" to talk about past events
Quote:

Originally Posted by Snappy
Let me confirm one thing.

"We solved the problem in three hours." Doesn't this sometimes mean that we solved the problem during (within) three hours, depending on the context?

Yes it does.
That is what your respondents have said.

If you wanted to talk about the future, you'd have to say:
We will solve the problem within three hours. (The problem will be solved between now and three hours from now) OR
We will solve the problem in three hours. i) Same as above, or ii) We will start solving the problem in three hours time, or iii) It will take us three hours to solve the problem after we start (which could be any time).
• 25-Oct-2009, 04:59
PROESL
Re: "In + duration" to talk about past events
Quote:

Originally Posted by Raymott
Yes it does.
That is what your respondents have said.

If you wanted to talk about the future, you'd have to say:
We will solve the problem within three hours. (The problem will be solved between now and three hours from now) OR
We will solve the problem in three hours. i) Same as above, or ii) We will start solving the problem in three hours time, or iii) It will take us three hours to solve the problem after we start (which could be any time).

That's a good point, and it reminds that it is possible to understand phrases that use "in" such as "in three hours" as marking a kind of line that indicates a limitation or a "finish line".

1________2________3_______| - not past 3 hours; no more than 3 hours
___in three hours_____

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