Over has two meanings;

: more than (a specified number or amount)
: throughout or during (a particular amount of time)

We can distinguish it in context but sometimes it's ambiguous for me.

For example

It's been over a minute.

This kind of sentence is confusing for me. Above all, is it preposition or adverb?

If it's a preposition, I copied two examples from Merriam-Webster.

I've been waiting for over an hour.
happening/occurring/developing over a period of 20 years.

According to the dictionary, it means more than in the first sentence but it means during in the second sentence. How to know whether over means more than or during?

Plus, what if second sentence was happening/occurring/developing over 20 years?

  • Potential responders might want to read what I answered to the same question here: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/122282/…
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:11
  • This is an exact copy of another(his own) question! I'd say 'Good job' @Gustavson I had posted already and had deleted temporarily for editing. Mar 12, 2017 at 21:19
  • @frederick99 No problem. The asker may ask the same question here if (s)he wishes. As regards your answer, I don't think tenses will be very helpful, since "over" can be used with both meanings in many tenses.
    – Gustavson
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:22
  • @frederick99 Is the 'Good job' sarcasm?? I thought the two sites are independent and they explain differently. I wanted to refer both sites. BTW I'm worry that is this question proper for ELU?
    – Choe
    Mar 12, 2017 at 21:24
  • @TingChoe Gustavson reduced the efforts the answerers would have to put in considerably. It wasn't in the least sarcastic. ;) Mar 12, 2017 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


The two forms can largely be distinguished by the presence of the preposition "for".

The more than type of over is usually preceded by a "for".

I have lived there for over five years.

Omitting the "for" conveys the sense of the action taking place over (during) the duration.

It has been over a year since we last dated.

The memories faded over the years.

  • Both the "lived there" and "living there" examples treat "over" as "more than". I think this is generally true for the form [action] for over [time]. Removing "for" allows the other interpretation.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 12, 2017 at 22:13
  • 1
    @Lawrence Haha, you are telling me to revert to my original post (check edit) which I thought was wrong. :D Mar 12, 2017 at 23:23

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