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I am not a native speaker therefore I would be grateful if someone could explain me what is the diferrence between "minute by minute" and "minute after minute". Thank you.

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    “minute by minute” is used to describe incremental progress. Minute after minute is used to describe prolonged waiting
    – Jim
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 19:02
  • I'm not sure "minute after minute" is a common English phrase though. A quick Google search came up with a lyric from "Gangsta's Paradise" and this very post. And I rarely ever hear "minute by minute". I probably hear "blow by blow" more often.
    – user124384
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 4:10
  • @user124384 I've almost never heard of "blow by blow" before. Do you happen to be British?
    – Tony
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 4:52
  • No, but I am from California, so take that for what you will.
    – user124384
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 14:45

2 Answers 2

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Minute by minute is detailed in the sense that not a minute of whatever is being recounted (a business meeting or a sports game, perhaps) is left out. Example:

From memory, he gave us a minute-my-minute summary of the exciting last game of the World Cup.

Minute after minute means tedium. Example:

While stuck in the elevator, I endured minute after minute of boredom before the Otis repairman showed up with a smile and a crowbar.

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In X by X the idea is that someone turns their full attention to each individual X, one by one.

In X after X the idea is that there is a long flow of Xs that occur in sequence.

Applying this to minutes, the typical use of minute by minute is to describe an exciting event, and the typical use of minute after minute is in connection to waiting. Applying the same principle to blows, blow by blow is how you describe a battle in full detail, and blow after blow is how you experience being beaten up. Similarly, if someone described a child as writing the words letter by letter, I would imagine an eager child putting full attention at the task. But if someone described a child as writing letter after letter, I would imagine a child who would rather be outside to play doing their homework very slowly and reluctantly.

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