Ok, I have a passport issued on 1 Dec 2014 and will expire on 1 Dec 2016. So I should say "The passport will expire in 2 years".

However "in" in the above sentence is a bit confused because "in" should mean "after", but I have never heard any one say "The passport will expire after 2 years". So:

Does "in" mean "after" in "The passport will expire in 2 years"?

  • 4
    The passport was issued on 1 December 2014 and expires after two years. If it expired in two years, it would expire on 20 December 2014 (or 21 December 2014, depending on what time zone you’re in). In is relative to the current time; after is relative to a time previously established in the narrative, in this case the issue date. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 21 '14 at 2:02
  • @JanusBahsJacquet That seems worthy of being an answer, not just a comment :) – Zubin Mukerjee Dec 21 '14 at 2:20
  • '..."in" in the above sentence is a bit confused' Preposition usage, when one examines anything but the most basic locative and directional cases, looks very illogical a lot of the time. 'In three years' usually means 'exactly three years from the specified starting point (often 'now')'; 'within three years' means 'at a time not more than three years from the specified starting point; 'after three years' means 'at any time after three years have elapsed from the starting point' (but often not too long after). // 'In three years'? Yes, it sounds illogical. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 21 '14 at 5:35
  • In the real world, people generally approximate their references to time. The technical linguistic difference between the two phrases is absolutely irrelevant to the average speaker, listener, writer and reader, but I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of JanusBahsJacquet & @Edwin Ashworth. Anyway you should renew your passport six months BEFORE it expires – ScotM Dec 21 '14 at 20:52
  • I always took "In two years" to be a shortening of "In two years' time." Or perhaps "In the time it takes the Earth to pass twice around our sun, the passport will expire." In, in your sentence, is defined over on OxfordDictionaries as "Expressing the length of time before a future event is expected to happen." No indication as to when that definition was added, though. – oliver-clare Dec 22 '14 at 14:07

In Australia, we would definitely say

The passport will expire in 2 years.

as though time followed years, and in is understood to mean about or approximately.

It is with some surprise that I read the comments from esteemed users @Janus and @Edwin, hence my qualification in Australia - perhaps this is regional usage.

  • 1 December was not that long ago, so the difference is not great. Say the passport had instead been issued on 1 February 2013 and expires on 1 February 2015, i.e., in just over a month. Would you not think it very odd to hear “The passport will expire in two years” about a passport that expires in just over a month? Even with the knowledge that it was issued nearly two years ago? How would you understand, “My passport was issued on 22 December 2013 and will expire in one year”? I simply cannot force my brain to understand that as meaning it will expire tomorrow. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 21 '14 at 15:29
  • I am also in Australia. I have never heard anyone say "The passport will expire after 2 years" – Tom Dec 22 '14 at 14:56

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