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Through the years

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,

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A big old tree stands by a road near the city of Hiroshima. Through the years,
it has seen many things.
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This is from a textbook for the junior high school students.
Does "through the years" mean "for many years"?

Thanks in advance.
Hirashin
 

OoTmaster

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I don't think it would mean "for many years" exactly. "For many years" could be exclusive or inclusive. While "through the years" to me feels more inclusive. For example if the time frame was 1950-1980, "through the years" I would think of 30 years inclusive something would have happened in each year from 1950 till 1980. While with the phrase "for many years" could mean that something happened in each year it could also be something like 20 out of the 30 years something met the condition.

So if I started studying English 10 years ago today.
Through the years would be all 10 years.
For many years could be. I studied 2 years. Stopped studying for 3 years and then studied again another 5 years.
 
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Julie.chan

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"Through the years", or "throughout the years", refers to the fact that an event has been repeated over some time frame, so it's an accumulation of individual events. So that sentence is using the expression to indicate that the many things were seen one at a time in isolated events. If you replaced it with "for many years", the meaning would change slightly to reduce the suggestion of it being an accumulation and make it sound more like you're talking about a smaller number of instances where many things were seen. Technically speaking, though, they can both mean the same thing; it's just a matter of connotation.
 

hirashin

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Hmm...That's difficult. Thanks for the help, OoTmaster and Julimaruchan.
 

joadbres

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It is not difficult. "Through the years" is a slightly poetic expression that conveys the idea "over the course of many years". In your specific example, you could replace "Through the years" with "During the many years of its life", and have the exact same meaning.
 

hirashin

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Thank you for your explanation, joadbres.
 
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