Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Which preposition is correct and what is the difference in meaning if any?

I went to the gym, something I haven't done for a long time.

I went to the gym, something I haven't done in a long time.

share|improve this question
I think they're both valid, but for is probably much more common, and in seems to me somewhat more dialectal/informal. – FumbleFingers Oct 27 '11 at 17:48

2 Answers 2

Barrie's answer is correct for the case you used as an example. However, when referring to the future, only "for" is correct.

"I won't be going to the gym again for a long time" ← valid
"I won't be going to the gym again in a long time" ← incorrect

share|improve this answer
I don't agree with your example, I think they are both OK. My example where they are not the same: I have been living here for a long time. not in a long time. – GEdgar Oct 27 '11 at 19:21

Both are grammatical. There's no difference in meaning, but, at least in the UK, in a long time could be a class marker.

share|improve this answer
This chart showing done in/for a while suggests the in version may be the upcoming "new kid on the block". – FumbleFingers Oct 27 '11 at 17:52
I don't think anyone in the US would even notice the difference, let alone make a judgment based on it. – onomatomaniak Oct 27 '11 at 17:59
As always, we must treat nGram charts with caution, since they are based only on the written language. – Barrie England Oct 27 '11 at 18:11
Could you elaborate on the class marker? Which class, for instance? – Sam Oct 27 '11 at 18:32
I have no evidence, and am prepared to be told I'm wrong, but I think it likely that in the UK 'in a long time' would be less likely to be found in working class speech than in middle class speech. – Barrie England Oct 27 '11 at 18:50

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.