I have been searching around but as far as I can tell there is no established name for the aspect demonstrated by sentences such as:

"I'll read this report over the weekend."

"The debt has grown over time..."

"The negotiations took place over three days."

"Bob blinked repeatedly over the next few minutes."

Contrast the last one with:

"Bob blinked repeatedly for the next few minutes."

Maybe there is more than one thing going on. Would you say "durative" is one of the qualities? I tried many variations of the last two sentences to try to get something that differed only by the preposition, without sounding strange. Does the first one sound more intentional to you? I am actually just trying to understand temporal uses of "over". I have noticed a telic sense, for example:

I read the entire book over five days.

*I read the entire book for five days.

So for and over can both be used for giving a sense of duration, but they seem to differ in telicity. Do they differ subtly in their duration sense too though? I feel like for has more of a sense of continuity than over. Over constructions sound like they could have stops and starts throughout the time period. I want to call it "distributive aspect" but apparently that is being used for something else: http://www-01.sil.org/linguistics/GlossaryOfLinguisticTerms/WhatIsDistributiveAspect.htm.

Maybe there are just lots of things going on here that can't be given one label?

  • I would say distributive is appropriate. It distributes an action over discontinuous points within a certain period, as opposed to carrying out an action during the entire period continuously. Not sure I would call the meaning of a preposition an "aspect", though.
    – Cerberus
    Nov 25, 2013 at 5:53
  • 2
    The preposition doesn't have aspect but constructions that involve verbs plus other things (such as prepositions) do.
    – Moss
    Nov 25, 2013 at 6:32
  • Yes. And which preposition gets used depends more on which metaphor themes are in play than anything else. Getting a technical name for the phenomenon is less important than delimiting its extent and describing its characteristics. Names come later; data comes first.
    – jlawler
    Nov 25, 2013 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


I ended up saying in my paper that there are two aspects: distributive and durative. I think distributive is a decent term for things like I've met a lot of weird people over the years. Durative is meant for expressions like Production has doubled over the past three months. Not sure if that is any different than in the last three months. Also not entirely sure if I like durative, but oh well.

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