What is the difference between these two sentences?

I have searched for it over the years.
I have searched for it for many years.

Thank you.

  • 1
    Well, for starters, one says "many" while the other does not. So one specifically covers a long period of time while the other, just a period unspecified. As an aside, you probably meant to say you searched for it. Otherwise what you are saying is, that "it", whatever it is, spent all these years standing right next to you and you spent all these years rummaging through its pockets. – RegDwigнt Jan 2 '19 at 21:00

I don't think there's much difference in objective meaning (RegDwight points out that the first one doesn't say "many", but I think it is implicit).

To me, there is a difference in the feeling. "Over the years" sounds as if it's something closer to the speaker, something important to them in an emotional way. It is a phrase of story-telling. "For many years" doesn't have that impact: it doesn't exclude the possibility of an emotional investment, but it doesn't require it either.

Other than the fact that "over the years" sounds like a narrative style, I can't account for why I get these differences between them.

  • Could it pos­si­bly be that the “over the years” ver­sion sounds less ded­i­cated a hunt, per­haps one only oc­ca­sion­ally at­tended to, as op­posed per­haps to be­ing wholly en­gaged in said search dur­ing all that time? – tchrist Jan 3 '19 at 2:25

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