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"Starting from nothing but a tree, and less than one working day, John built a chair and a table."

Is the usage of "and less than one working day" correct here? I believe that it should be "in less than one working day."

If so, what grammatical rule dictates this?

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  • Yes, it should be 'in'. I'm not sure exactly why, there's probably a word for it. Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 22:06
  • By the way, could you include the research you have done, and why you came to your conclusion? Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 22:08
  • As it stands, 'less than one working day' modifies 'John', or arguably a starting material, which is nonsense. But 'in less than one working day' is a temporal adverbial addressing how long the construction took John. Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 22:08
  • I posted it for the same reason--I wasn't sure exactly why and was curious if there was a rule for it.
    – mwlow
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 22:15

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This is yet another variant of the insidious Oxford comma or its jokey equivalent Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

The sentence is actually fine without the "in", and could be paraphrased as follows:

Starting with nothing but a tree and a day's labor, John built a chair and a table.

Think euphony, which is sometimes clarity's friend. Grammar is only part of the answer here.

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