2

In my English class my Teacher said I cannot use "Last two years ago...", so what should I use correctly?

  • 2
    Perhaps, "last two years" or "two years ago". – Cardinal Sep 20 '16 at 8:08
  • 3
    Tell us what you are trying to say. Are you talking about a single event that happened in 2014 or some ongoing activity that started in 2014. – djna Sep 20 '16 at 8:55
  • Yes... "Last two years ago, I was in a classical concert "that was the sentence i had said. @djna – Sai Aung Naing Sep 20 '16 at 9:21
  • 3
    Two years ago I attended a classical concert. That's a single event. If instead you had been learning to play an instrument: For the last two years I have been learning to play the violin. – djna Sep 20 '16 at 9:37
8

*Last two years ago is incorrect because it combines two constructions with different senses:

  • Ago is a preposition which, unusually, follows its object. That object is a measurement of distance in time and designates a time point (though it may be a rather fuzzy point) at that distance in the past. It's used to designate the date or time at which an eventuality occurred:

    Two years ago I answered a question about stative verbs. —that is, I answered the question in September of 2014. (It was actually on September 15, but as I said, the 'point' is fairly fuzzy.)

  • The last (not bare last) are a determiner and an adjective; when this group is attached to a nominal which designates a measurement of distance in time it designates a timespan of that length reaching from the past right up to the present. The entire noun phrase is used with a preposition such as in or for or since to designate the period during which one or more eventualities occurred:

    In the last two years I have answered thirteen questions tagged . —that is, during the period running from September, 2014 up to the present I answered thirteen questions.

    Note that the noun phrase the last [TIME MEASUREMENT] can also be used without a preposition to designate the period itself:

    The last two years have gone by very quickly.

Combining last and ago, your phrase tries to characterize two years simultaneously as both a time point and a time span. You have to pick one or the other.


As Ahmad suggests, it is arguable that last* in temporal contexts should be considered a determinative, and the last a Determiner Phrase*—but that doesn't affect the point at issue here.

  • It's probably worth mentioning that "last" and "ago" are not used in the same noun phrase. Unless in sentences like: The last time I saw a ballet was two years ago. – Mari-Lou A Sep 20 '16 at 10:20
  • @Mari-LouA Quite so; I've added remarks explaining that. – StoneyB Sep 20 '16 at 10:27
  • @StoneyB I polished my answer. It seems we can't use "the last two years" without a preposition unless it is the subject or object of the sentence. right? – Ahmad Sep 20 '16 at 13:25
  • For my last example, can we say "the last two years was difficult for my family? maybe not but "the last two years before my acceptance to the university was a difficult time for me" – Ahmad Sep 20 '16 at 13:28
  • 1
    @Ahmad Yes, that is idiomatic: a timespan like that may be treated as a plural quantity of units (years, weeks, days, hours, &c) OR a singular block of time. – StoneyB Sep 20 '16 at 14:02
4

"ago" is used to specify a time point in the past when something happened. Before "ago" you need a time period like "two years" or "10 minutes" to specify how long ago it happend:

5 minutes ago

an hour ago

a long time ago

some time ago

two years ago

bare "last" without "the" is used as a determiner (opposite of next) to specify a time.

last year, last night, last week

last can also be used as an adjective to point to something that is at the end in a sequence.

the last person

the last chapter of the book

the last two years

the last year

Note, when you point to the last two years, you point to a specific time period ("two years") which is the last one. It spans from two years ago to the present and you usually use a "present perfect" tense with it

I have been learning English in the last two years.

This time period can also be used as the subject or object of the sentence.

The last two years have been very difficult for my family.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.