this is my first question, so I hope I'm doing it right.

My students keep writing "under the war" and "under WW2". I would have intuitively written "during the war", but since I'm not a native speaker myself, I'm starting to doubt... Who is right?

  • 1
    You need (or should) provide a sample sentence, "under the war" is a fragment and as such it is really difficult (for me at least) to know if your students are using it correctly or appropriately. For example, you could say "blah, blah, blah, under war conditions...." – Mari-Lou A Dec 8 '17 at 11:45
  • In the years before as well as under the Korean War logistics was described and used .......google.it/… – user 66974 Dec 8 '17 at 11:49
  • Using under the war in place of during the war seems really weird and unusual. – Misha R Dec 22 '17 at 0:28

The term under in this context has the notion of related to, rather than during the interval of.

under preposition 5.1 In a state of. ‘For decades, he helped many of them to survive under difficult circumstances.’ - ODO

Here's an example:

If the context was more along the lines of the following, it wouldn't be appropriate to replace during with under:

The phrase during the war in that sentence relates simply to time. Ceasefires during holidays are not intrinsic to warfare.

However, there are contexts in which a case could be made to interpret the phrase either as simply a time reference or as a reference to the conditions of the war. Here's an example:

If you replaced during with under, the sense of the sentence would be that the conditions of war led to low patronage. As written, the sense is more strongly that of a time reference.

One might argue that the ceasefire example could be coerced to fit the phrase under the war, or counter that the customers example cannot be so coerced. In the final analysis, the intent of the author should be brought to bear by considering the broader context. The term war already brings up connotations of hardship etc, but under amplifies these connotations much more than during.

  • Thank you for your detailed explanation! It really helps! I don't think my students had such subtle differences in mind when using the preposition "under", though... But it's good to know when I am supposed to correct them - in some cases the "condition-rather-than-time"-reading will probably hold :) – laura Dec 8 '17 at 12:33
  • @laura You're welcome; glad it helped. :) – Lawrence Dec 8 '17 at 12:39

OP needs to provide more context.

If the meaning is "during the period of time when WW2 was happening" then "during" is correct.

I cannot think of any correct use of "under" in this context and it sounds very much like students translating from their own language 1:1 which is a frequent problem with prepositions.

  • Thanks! One example that I have in front of me right now is "this book gives you a really good picture of how kids lived under the war". Maybe in this case the reading of the type "under those condition" would make the use of "under" acceptable. I do believe that my students are translating 1:1 from their mother tongue (Norwegian "under" means both "under" and "during"...), but I want to be sure before I correct them! Any feedback on this example would be highly appreciated :) – laura Dec 8 '17 at 12:39
  • In your example, "during" is also correct and "under" again wrong. You could say "Under the Hitler regime" or "Under the 3rd reich, life was very difficult" with the meaning "when X was in power/charge" but for time periods, it's always during. – SonOfPingu Dec 11 '17 at 7:24
  • Thank you, SonOfPingu! It's a subtle difference for a non-native speaker, but I think I understand. Your comment really helps :) – laura Dec 15 '17 at 6:33

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