“Last year” or “in the last year” — which one should you use? What is the difference? In this grammar lesson, you will learn the differences between ‘in the last year’; ‘in the last month’; ‘in the last week’, and ‘last year’; ‘last month’; ‘last week’. I will also teach you how these phrases relate to the past simple and the present perfect tenses.
Learn English: “last year” OR “in the last year” video
Hello. My name is Emma, and in today’s video, we are going to talk about the difference between “in the last year” versus “last year”. We will also cover “in the last week” versus “last week”, “in the last month” against “last month”. Okay? So we’ll talk about some of these differences. So let’s get started.
So I have two sentences here. The first sentence. “Last year, I went to China.” The second sentence. “In the last year, I’ve been to China twice.” So what are some of the differences you notice between these two sentences? Maybe one of the first things you noticed is the difference between the verb tense. “Went” is an example of the simple past tense or the past simple whereas “I’ve been” is an example of present perfect. Okay? So one difference between “in the last year” — also “in the last month; in the last week; etc.” — versus “last month’ last week; etc.”, is with “last year; last month”, you use the simple past. Whereas with “in the last year”, you use the present perfect. Okay.
What other things do you notice? You may notice the word “twice”. A difference between “in the last year; in the last week; in the last minute”, is we’re often talking about how many times we’ve done an action. “In the last minute, I have said ‘past simple’ — I don’t know — four times? In the last second — well, in the last 30 seconds, I’ve smiled a lot. In the last month, I have gone on the Internet hundreds of times.” So we’re often talking about how many times we do something. “In the last five days, I’ve eaten pizza one time.” Okay? Or once. Okay? So we usually have a number with “in the last”. Whereas with “last year”, we don’t have that number.
Another difference is — and I’ll explain this using my diagrams down here. When I’m talking about “last year”, I’m talking about — right now, it’s 2013. I’m talking about 2012. And how does that look on a timeline? Here is now; here is 2010, 2011, 2012. Notice what’s emphasized is it’s a moment in time. Okay? Whereas — here’s my second diagram. This would represent “in the last year”. So now, maybe today is August 8, 2013. When I’m talking about “in the last year”, I’m really emphasizing this whole period of time. Okay? So it’s not really talking about a moment in time. You’re emphasizing the length of time. So you’ll have days, so many days. They’re out here. So it’s not just one point; it’s a whole bunch of points. So the focus is a bit different. Same with if I’m talking about “last week”. You’re really emphasizing how many days of the week there are, whereas if I say “last week”, it’s really a moment in time. So now, let’s look at some more examples of “in the last week, month, minute” versus “last”.
Before we get to these examples, there’s one other thing I should tell you about “in the last week; in the last month; in the last year” versus “last week; last month; last year”. And that is “last week; last month; last year” happened in the past. Okay? So it’s done. Past. Finished. “In the last week; in the last month” is about an action that started in the past but is going all the way up to this present moment. Okay? So it’s something that started in the past, continued to now. So that’s another difference. One of them is totally in the past, whereas “in the last year” started in the past but continued to now. Okay? So let’s look at a couple examples.
The first one. “In the last week, my friend has been on four dates.” So again, we have present perfect. This is true, by the way. My friend Claire has been on four dates in the last week. She’s looking for love. So we use the present perfect. And this started exactly a week ago and continued up until today, okay?
Another thing you might notice is oftentimes, we have numbers when we’re using “in the last”. “In the last year — in the last week, she’s been on four dates.” So you hear a number.
My second example. “Last week, my friend went on four dates.” I can also use a number, but we’re using the past tense. And the reason is because pretty much last week does not continue to today. It’s finished. It’s over. It ended. So, “Last week, my friend went on four dates.” Because of “last week”, I would use “went”.
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