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in/at a/the distance in/at a/the distance Options
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 4:11:31 AM

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I don't know how to use these:

1 I saw a man in a/the/ distance???
2 I saw a man at a/the/ distance???
3 I saw a man in a/the/ distance of 6 meters???
4 I saw a man at a/the/ distance of 6 meters???
5 Do you see an object in/at a/the distance???

Which ones are good?
Marek Guman
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 7:08:25 AM

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Ivan Fadeev wrote:
I don't know how to use these:

1 I saw a man in a/the/ distance???
2 I saw a man at a/the/ distance???
3 I saw a man in a/the/ distance of 6 meters???
4 I saw a man at a/the/ distance of 6 meters???
5 Do you see an object in/at a/the distance???

Which ones are good?


It simply depends on what you want to say, if the distance is somehow known or specified, "the" is used, like in 3 and 4.
And a preposition "at" is used with the distance more, I would say, but I guess you can use "in" like in sentence 1.

So to wrap it up:

1 I saw a man in a distance.
4 I saw a man at the distance of 6 meters.
5 Do you see an object in a distance?

In 1 and 5 distance is not specified, I'd say "in" sounds more natural in them.


Romany
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 8:17:32 AM
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The collocation is "in the distance". - the preposition is part of it.

"Off in the distance the pollution haze over the city was clearly visible."
"In the distance I saw a man whom I thought was my father."
"We could see a line of mountains in the distance but, apart from those, the landscape was flat and featureless

"at a distance of" is used to describe the distance from the speaker/writer to something.

"The city lay at a distance of almost 200 kilometers, yet we could see the pollution haze from it already."
"The man stood at a distance of around 20 metres from me and, without my glasses, I thought it was my father."
"Apart from a line of mountains at a distance of about 50 kilometers, the landscape was flat and featureless."
thar
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 9:21:01 AM

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There are actually interesting nuances because it changes depending on the focus of attention.


'in the distance' is a place away from you.
I saw the man in the trees.
I saw the man in the car park over there.
I saw a/the man in the distance. He wasn't close enough for me to see his face.


Whereas 'from a distance' is how far away you are from the action.
I saw him, but I only saw him from a distance. I didn't get a good look at him.

Edit - repeated myself
Similarly 'at a distance' is the separation of where you are looking from to the object.
I only saw the man at a distance. I wasn't close enough to see his face.




Marek Guman
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 9:35:21 AM

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Thanks for clarification Romany and thar, I started to see nuances when I was writing my answer and reading
the distance's references in the classic literature. So I quickly wrote wrap it up section not to get lost. :)
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 1:22:01 PM
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So glad that we could be of use to you in a practical manner.

Makes it worth one's daily visitsDancing
coag
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 2:53:02 PM

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This topic reminded me of these two examples:
"Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light"
"From a distance the world looks blue and green"
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 4:12:06 PM

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It's interesting - I'd never looked at the fact that, if you 'figure it out logically', you can come to the conclusion that the opposite phrases are correct (there's nothing wrong with Marek's logic).

I realised (mainly from coag's examples) that 'distance has two different meanings.

"Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light."
"The distance" is a place - an area which is quite a long way away. It is specified - it's the area between "not far away" and "a long way away".

"From a distance the world looks blue and green."
"A distance" is an unspecified measurement of length - anything more than "not far".


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Marek Guman
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019 4:23:43 PM

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coag wrote:
This topic reminded me of these two examples:
"Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light"
"From a distance the world looks blue and green"


Exactly, Bette Midler's From a distance sprang to my mind :)
I didn't remember Eagles' Hotel California though.
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2019 6:05:16 AM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:

"From a distance the world looks blue and green."
"A distance" is an unspecified measurement of length - anything more than "not far".


It can even be specified but still has "a".

I saw a man at a distance of 6 meters.
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