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My question is if I could say "this March" to mean the March which just passed.

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    You can, but this past March would be less ambiguous. – J.R. Oct 5 '17 at 10:40
  • What @J.R.♦ said. Note that if you want to unambiguously reference the March which will arrive 12 months after the one which [just] passed, you can use this coming March. But the longer ago (or the further in the future) the referenced month falls, the more likely we'd be to just use the more common forms last / next March. – FumbleFingers Oct 5 '17 at 13:09
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Yes. "This", "next", and "last" with a time period such as a day, week, month or year, are all potentially ambiguous. I think that "this" is more often used of the future than the past, but with a past-tense verb, it clearly means the most recent instance in the past (and avoids the possible ambiguity of "last March").

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  • I don't necessarily disagree, but I'm not exactly convinced that "this" is more often used of the future than the past. I've been really busy this past week, for example, sounds perfectly natural to me. I think the main effect of using "this" is simply to emphasise "immediacy, relevance to time of utterance". – FumbleFingers Oct 5 '17 at 13:14
  • @FumbleFingers. You may be right. But "this past" is entirely different from "this", in that it has no ambiguity. – Colin Fine Oct 5 '17 at 14:08
  • Indeed. But I'd also say that I really don't much like the idea of referring to this past March in, say, January. I think it's partly to do with potential confusion regarding this year and last year, but that's not the whole story. Per my comment to the question, if the month being referenced is significantly more than half a year away (in the past or the future), this seems increasingly "awkward". So I don't much like this past March in December either, even though it's still this year. – FumbleFingers Oct 5 '17 at 14:23

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