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I have doubts regarding the use of "at the turn of".

I know that I can say "at the turn of the XX century" to point out a period in between the XIX and the XX century (straddling the two centuries).

In a similar way, can I say something like, for instance, "at the turn of the beginning of the school year" to mean a period of time straddling the period immediatly before and after the starting of the school year, or "at the turn of his arrest", to indicate a period immediatly before and after his arrest?

Thank you

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  • “At the turn of century” is a literary expression, I’d suggest you use “around/ about” for “the beginning of the school year” and for other similar expressions.
    – user 66974
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 20:16
  • 1
    At the turn of the seasons. At the turning of the watch. At the turning of the contract. At the turning of the tenancy. The thing ending and the thing beginning must be equivalent, have little or no overlap and be inevitable or practically so. Vacation and school year are not fungible equivalents. “At the turning of the term.” Is maybe possible but is unfamiliar. I am not sure why I alternate between turn and turning. I see a difference in agency. Things that happen on their own; turn. That happen with human intervention only, turning.
    – Aaron K
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 20:24
  • BTW centuries are usually specified using numerals (e.g. the 20th century) or words (e.g. the twentieth century) rather than by Roman numerals as you've written (the XX century).
    – Rosie F
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 6:21
  • There's always "turn of the screw".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 12:21

1 Answer 1

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can I say something like, for instance, "at the turn of the beginning of the school year"

No. “The turn of the ” implies an end and a beginning (in that order) so to repeat “of the beginning” is a tautology.

For the same reason, you cannot say “at the turn of the beginning of the XX century"

You can say “at the turn of the school year"

or "at the turn of his arrest", to indicate a period immediately before and after his arrest?

No. “At the turn of XYY” is approximately “about the time that XYY was changing to XYZ” and you will see that the arrest does not change.

PS

I have a doubt regarding the use of "at the turn of".

This is not idiomatic. You should use “I have doubts (plural) regarding the use of "at the turn of".” Doubts is always plural in this set phrase – it doesn’t matter how many you have.

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    The structure of "at the turn of the school year" seems fine, but not the logic of it. At least in the US, there's typically a break between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. That seems almost like the turn of spring to autumn.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 21:26
  • Thanks @Greybeard. So it can be used with something that has an end/beginning for instance “at the turn of the presidency”? Can we use it also with something that can be subject to “innovation”? That is a change from an old (which ends) to a new (which begins) state of being? For instance legislation change in time: “at the turn of the law that prohibits alcohol trade”? We know that the laws can change in time and the “prohibition” is an innovation from an old state of being (when the trade was free, a period that ends) to a new state of being. (I edited “doubt” in the question, thanks)
    – kk68
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 5:24
  • @kk68 Your examples don't work well and I would not use them. With centuries, eras, etc., have a continuum of time in the background - time continues but designations change. With eras, "At the turn of the Renaissance..." there is a continuum of development. A change in presidency/law is instantaneous - the before and after states are distinct. Turn is more durative. I did find an example: "the last [...] was PH-sw-xr who lived at the turn of the reign of Tuthmosis III and Amenhotep II. Two subjects. You can change "reign" with "presidency" as they provide the duration/continuum.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Apr 16, 2020 at 10:58

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