I have heard the following used often

Over the course of the semester, ...

but a friend recently told me

Through the course of the semester, ...

Are both of these usages of the idiom acceptable? I feel like the second one is strange while the first one is acceptable.


The first is certainly acceptable. Although I've heard the second example used, in my opinion it's not correct. It may perhaps be most charitably read as "through[out] the course of the semester", which is fine.

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  • Agreed. 8 times as many links for the natural sounding #1 compared to the odd sounding #2. – dcaswell Aug 27 '13 at 3:55
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    As this is an English Language & Usage site, please use standard English formatting & capitalisation for sentences: it makes answers much easier to read. – TrevorD Aug 27 '13 at 10:37
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    @TrevorD — fair enough. In an on-screen context I have a preference for the newly-emerging conventions, but perhaps this isn’t the place to be avant-garde. (I’d add an emoticon here, but somehow it seems as though it might come across as disingenuous!) – simon Aug 27 '13 at 11:15

I wonder if each of these phrases could potentially mean something different.

For example, if I say that I took five prescriptions over the course of a month, would that be the same as saying that I took five prescriptions through the course of a month? Use of the word through seems to suggest that all prescriptions were taken until the end of the month. Use of the word over does not seem to suggest this.

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    I think this response is intended as an answer, but the interrogative and tentative wording makes it seem closer to a question. You can strengthen it by making a clearer argument in support of the notion that "prescriptions through the course of a month" and "prescriptions over the course of a month" have different meanings—preferably with corroboration from a third-party authority such as a reference book. – Sven Yargs Mar 30 '16 at 21:31

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