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I was just wondering, what is the most normal way of interpretating in the last two hours.

If somebody asked you: What have you been doing in the last two hours?

What events from what time period would you mostly cover in your answer if it was already 19:40?

A. I would mention all important things since 17:00 until 19:40(now)

or

B. I would mention all important things since 18:00 until 19:40

(because 40 minutes can be understood as almost hour, but I am not sure if people would count it if it is not full 60 minute hour yet)

C. I would mention all important things since 17:00 until 19:00

Personally, I would go with choice A. But I am not sure if this is the most common way people use it. It might seem that it is almost 3 hours (2h 40m) but so far it is still just 2 hours + some minutes because i would say in the last 3 hours ONLY if 3x60m was completed and would not care if it was more than 3 hours but it still would have to be less than 4 hours.

Does somebody understand me? Which is the most common way of understanding?

3

I'm seeing these questions a ton. Frankly I wouldn't worry about it very much, because people will ask these questions imprecisely. They will not mean exactly two hours. They will not really care whether you're counting this hour, or the last hour. Different people will have different opinions about what the phrase means.

If I were to ask the question, I would mean what have you done from 17:40 to 19:40, e.g. the preceding 120 minutes, because I don't think of the day's 24 hours as an immutable construct.

The most important thing when answering this question is to consider the context in which it was asked. Give the information most relevant to the person asking the question. If it is a question that is precise, as in you're a lawyer being asked for a bill by hours, then you will need to answer precisely.

If it is a question in which the timeframe is approximate, like a doctor is asking you "what did you eat in the last two hours?", then if you ate a rotten tuna sandwich two hours and 30 minutes ago, you should absolutely mention that, because rotten fish could explain your medical symptoms.

  • I find it intriguing that none of the timeframes OP proposes to report on match your (and my) expectations. But I have to say that in this context, if someone failed to tell me something really important that they did a few minutes before 1740 I'd be really pissed off with them (even if they were diagnosed "autistic", I'd expect them to do better than that! :) – FumbleFingers Feb 6 '17 at 19:37
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    The challenge is there might be a cultural element to how we measure time, independent of actual language. For example, this quote: "For an Italian, time considerations will usually be subjected to human feelings. “Why are you so angry because I came at 9:30?” he asks his German colleague. “Because it says 9:00 in my diary,” says the German. “Then why don’t you write 9:30 and then we’ll both be happy?” is a logical Italian response." Business Insider – Andrew Feb 6 '17 at 19:42
  • Do the things, that I did 2 hours ago still fall under the in the last 2 hours period? For example if I watched a TV 2 hours ago (I am not sure when but at latest it could have been at 17:00) would it be okay to mention that if somebody asked me What have you been doing in the last two hours? – Peter Feb 6 '17 at 20:27
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    @Peter no one is going to be angry, insulted or annoyed. What we are trying to emphasize is that two hours is an approximate figure, and that no one is going to care even the slightest bit, unless you're including stuff that is wildly outside of the timeframe, like things that happened 10 hours ago, or the day before. – mstorkson Feb 6 '17 at 20:30
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I think that unless the question is time specific and it matters what you did precisely in the past x amount of time and you have those exact times (i.e. 8:59am and 10:59am), then you answer it casually.

"Officer at 9:01am, I was buying groceries in another part of town. Here is my receipt."

"What have you been doing for the past two hours while I was taking care of our vomiting baby?" "Um, I did not know the kid was puking. I was playing my game while wearing my headphones." It doesn't matter if you've been doing that for three hours, because you are in trouble!

  • Do the things, that I did 2 hours ago still fall under the in the last 2 hours period? For example if I was at McDonald's 2 hours ago (I am not sure when but at latest it could have been at 17:00) would it be okay to mention that if somebody asked me What have you been doing in the last two hours and now is 19:40? – Peter Feb 6 '17 at 20:28
  • Of course if you thought the questioner would want to know... – WRX Feb 6 '17 at 20:35

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