Can you tell me if this sentence is correct? Here it is, in context (bold emphasis added):

...mother and sister to let them know she was deploying. Thanksgiving was in four days, and Peyton had a feeling she was going to miss it...

I keep thinking that it should be Thanksgiving was four days away, or There were only four days until Thanksgiving.

I know everyone uses the first version, but I am seeking expert advice.

  • Welcome to EL&U. It isn't very clear what you are asking. As you note, "everyone" uses the first version, so it must be considered grammatical, if less formal than your alternatives, or something like Thanksgiving was coming in four days. Please note that this is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance. – choster Sep 25 '19 at 18:34
  • The English language is tricky. What is and is not grammatical is often a matter of opinion, style, or even convenience. Then there's the concept of audience. What is appropriate for one audience is not appropriate for another. So, here's the expert advice you seek. All of the examples you've given are grammatical. Was in four days is perfectly grammatical. Only you can decide if it's appropriate. – David M Sep 25 '19 at 20:39

It’s not a pre­cise com­par­i­son, but let’s con­sider, for a mo­ment, the “plu­per­fect” con­struc­tion.

  • I had taken a shower when the door­bell rang.

Com­pare to the past tense:

  • I took a shower.

The “plu­per­fect” is the “past past”, which is to say that you’re talk­ing about some point in the past, but re­fer­ring to an event that is even fur­ther in the past. At the (past tense) mo­ment the door­bell rang, you had taken a shower. The shower is even fur­ther into the past than the past to which we’re re­fer­ring.

If I had said I took a shower when the door­bell rang, that would have been a dif­fer­ent state­ment — that the doorbell rang, and then I took a shower.

Ding Dong!

turns on shower

Now, to your ex­am­ple:

  • Thanks­giv­ing was in four days, and Pey­ton had a feel­ing she was go­ing to miss it.

This is a sim­i­lar con­struc­tion. You are re­fer­ring to a spe­cific point in the past, at which Thanks­giv­ing was four days in the fu­ture. It’s not four days in the fu­ture right now, but it was at the time to which you are re­fer­ring. If the “plu­per­fect” con­struc­tion is the “past past”, this is the “past fu­ture” con­struc­tion.

If there’s a spe­cific gram­mat­i­cal term for this con­struc­tion, I don’t know it, but it may be some­thing called the “past pro­gres­sive con­struc­tion”.

  • @tchrist could you explain your issue with calling pluperfect a "verb tense" rather than "construction" (per your edit)? This is a grammar school level concept to me. Verb tense: past, present, future, etc. What am I missing? – Stephen R Sep 26 '19 at 19:05
  • 1
    Tense is about morphology of individual words. You can have tensed forms which are finite and untensed ones that are not finite. When you have a sentence like I had been calling him for three days before he finally answered me, both clauses feature verbs inflected into the same tense: had is the past tense of have, and answered is the past tense if answer. Nothing else there is a tensed verb inflection. Words like been and calling are not finite forms. English does not have a pluperfect tense because it has no such inflectional morphology. – tchrist Sep 26 '19 at 19:14

It's basically indirect speech and could be rewritten as, "Thanksgiving is in four days and I've a feeling I'm going to miss it," said/thought Peyton. So it's more colloquial than the versions you suggested but is fine here.

  • Welcome to ELU, I'd suggest reading the guide for answering. This answer isn't wrong, but it's not the type of answer that typically is sought on this site. We're not a forum. Rather, we're a question and detailed answer site. Please read the guide, and revise your answer. – David M Sep 25 '19 at 20:51

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