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I'm curious if it's possible to document roughly when the split happened, and also curious whether British or American usage diverged.

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    This question, unlike the marked duplicate, asks about the history of these phrases, not their meaning; voting to reopen. – Nathaniel Jan 9 '17 at 14:16
  • @Nathaniel thanks... some half-hearted efforts in the review queue going on here... – MichaelChirico Jan 9 '17 at 14:20
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If you look at this Google Ngram, you see that both Brits and Americans used to use "in future", and this expression is being replaced by "in the future" both places. It's just that in the U.S., the replacement is now almost complete while in the U.K. it is still happening.

When did this split happen? The replacement was quite gradual, so it's hard to narrow it down to something shorter than "the last half of the 19th century".

  • could you explain the search tags you used? didn't know any such things were available on ngrams. is there a reference page? – MichaelChirico Jan 8 '17 at 15:36
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    There's a reference page. The search tags future_NOUN, to eliminate uses of future as an adjective (i.e., in future centuries, etc.), which are still very common in the U.S. And :eng_us_2012, :eng_gb_2012, to narrow it down to American and British sources. (I believe this last piece has some misclassification, so the frequency of in future is probably even lower in the U.S. than is indicated by the Ngram.) – Peter Shor Jan 8 '17 at 15:39
  • also, perhaps you can interpret the results before 1800 better? it looks to me like neither phrase was in widespread usage before 1800 or so... or is that just a reflection of data quality? – MichaelChirico Jan 8 '17 at 15:40
  • The data quality gets fairly bad before 1800, but if you change the start date, it looks like in future started being used around 1750, and in the future started slightly later in the U.S. – Peter Shor Jan 8 '17 at 15:42
  • Actually, looking at usages of in the future before 1800 in Google Books, they seem mostly to be talking about grammar (i.e., future means future tense). So I'd guess that in the future didn't start replacing in future until the early 19th century. – Peter Shor Jan 8 '17 at 15:52

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