First of all, I would like to let you know I am not a native English speaker.

While looking for some words in a dictionary, I saw this sentence:

"Many years elapsed before they met again."

To me, it sounds like a little bit strange, and "They met again after many years elapsed" looks more natural.

Is there any difference between these two?

or, is it just a matter of style?

Thank you.

  • Your cited usage is slightly "strange" - but only because it's "dated". See this NGram which clearly shows that we nearly always use passed rather than elapsed in such contexts today. This "stylistic" preference has completely reversed from standard usage a century ago. – FumbleFingers Jun 4 '18 at 13:55
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    It might also sound more natural to you with a slightly different verb tense: Many years had elapsed before they met again. Or, to rephrase it completely, Many years will elapse before we meet again. In none of these cases does elapse need to be the last word in the sentence. – Jason Bassford Jun 4 '18 at 14:03

"Many years elapsed before they met again."

"They met again after many years elapsed."

Both are acceptable and mean the same.

| improve this answer | |
  • The storytelling effect, though, is completely different. – Jim Aug 4 '18 at 1:27

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