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I was just wondering. What does this sentence say? In my country we have two words for LAST - one means previous calendar year and other means previous 365 days.

Sentence: I spent last two years chasing him.

And in this sentence I am not sure if they mean last 2 calendar years or last 2*365 days. How am I supposed to know whether it is supposed to mean 2 years from now or previous 2 calendar years?

Would there be any difference if the sentence was said like: I have spent last two years chasing him.

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    "In my country we have two words for LAST - one means previous calendar year and other means previous 365 days" We are not that precise in English. It usually means something like "roughly two years", or 365*2 days. But if someone had spent a small part of 2015 and all of 2016 chasing him, I wouldn't be very surprised to hear them say "the last two years" either. By the way, it should always be "the last two years." – stangdon Feb 24 '17 at 22:19
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    In this context, "two years" is not intended to imply any type of chronological precision; not 2 calendar years and certainly not 730 days. It's a crude approximation, where the ambiguity is irrelevant. It's meant to convey a general sense of magnitude, as in "It seems like it's probably closer to the ballpark of two years than to one year or three years.". – fixer1234 Feb 24 '17 at 22:32
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This kind of question is asked frequently. English is not that precise about time. As stangdon points out, "the last two years" could mean the past 730 days, or it could mean last year and the year before. You have to determine from context.

I've been in bed sick the last three days (yesterday, the day before, and the day before that, plus possibly today).

I've spend the last day in bed (the previous 24 hours).

In general it's not important to be that exact. You can consider these rough estimates. However, because English is not precise with these expressions, we will usually add additional information if precision is important, or you should ask for more details:

If you are still sick after three days -- I mean by Monday morning -- then call me or go to the emergency room.

Doctor, you said I should take two of these pills for the next six days. Does that mean I should also take two pills today?

  • Thank you. But what should I say if a person has been chasing someone since january 2015 and now it is let's say september 2017. Should I say: A. I spent the last 2 years chasing him B. I spent the last 3 years chasing him. C. I spent the last 2 years and a half chasing him. Which one is more common if I mean that time period as I mentioned above? Thank you – Peter Feb 24 '17 at 22:56
  • The vast majority of the time, that degree of precision is not important, and no one will care if you estimate,"I've been chasing him for over two-and-a-half years". If you need to be exact, you would say "I've been chasing him since January of 2015". – Andrew Feb 24 '17 at 23:00
  • @Peter - Either "two years" or "two and a half years" sounds OK to me. "Three years" sounds wrong to me, since it has not actually been three years except by what year it says on the calendar. – stangdon Feb 25 '17 at 1:54

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