Let's say I'm talking to someone about my past experience and I want to say that I've been in New York for 2 months. "I spent 2 months in New York when I was 17." "I was in New York for 2 months when I was 17." Do you see any differences? As a non-native speaker, it's hard for me to say how they are different. Thanks in advance.

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    I see no difference in meaning whatever. They are equally idiomatic. – WS2 Nov 18 '17 at 19:39

When considering a question such as this, you simply need to 'spot the difference' in the two sentences, and then analyse for meaning:

"I spent 2 months in New York when I was 17."


Past simple and past participle of spend -- Cambridge


To use time doing something or being somewhere. -- Cambridge

The verb spend connotates that time was used. The emphasis is on the fact that you spent 2 months in New York, when you was 17, and consequently the listeners attention is shifted to the idea that these are two months that were valuable (as you will not have them back, and they have been spent).

I was in New York for 2 months when I was 17.

Does not carry with it the same emphasis on the valuable time that you spent, the idea of an exchange of time for experience is not as strong in this sentence, you were simply in New York for 2 months.

  • "Connotates"? Does that mean the same as "connotes"? – WS2 Nov 18 '17 at 22:48
  • Almost @ws2 dictionary.com/browse/connotate sometimes you just got to have a bit of Latin flair – Gary Nov 19 '17 at 0:21
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    I disagree that I spent time suggests that the time was well spent. Nothing in the dictionary definitions you cite suggests this. It is just as possible that the 2 months you spent in NY were time wasted. Spending time is like spending money: it does not follow that what the time or money was spent on was valuable or worthwhile. You can waste time or money by spending it. – Drew Nov 19 '17 at 4:09
  • @Gary Yes, it's in the OED, with the medieval Latin etymology. But it is listed as "obsolete" - with the only example given from 1697. The modern word is "connote" which has a far more extensive entry. – WS2 Nov 19 '17 at 6:43
  • @Drew You remind me of Down and Out in Paris and London – Xanne Nov 19 '17 at 7:14

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