English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've always thought I should use "for ages" when, for example, I meet a person who I haven't seen for a long time, but recently I came across another expression, "in ages," as in "I haven't seen you in ages."

Is it correct to say this?

share|improve this question
both are correct to say and will convey the same meaning. – camelbrush Apr 15 '13 at 19:36
They will convey the same meaning in a negative sentence; but in ages and other durational phrases with in (in weeks/months/years/a coon's age/donkey's years) are Negative Polarity Items and can't occur outside the scope of a negative trigger. E.g, I've known him for ages/years/a long time vs ungrammatical *I have seen him in ages/weeks/months/years/a coon's age/donkey's years. – John Lawler Apr 15 '13 at 20:22

While both for and in could be used in the statement you have, in seems to be more prevalent in current usage. However, Google Ngrams indicates that this was not the case always. The use of for in this sentence has declined over time in favour of in.

PS: This is only with reference to negative sentences. Only for is suitable in positive sentences, as John Lawler's comment on polarity item states.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.