Regarding time, years, which of these two words — last or past— should be used to state tense of time passed?

Sister Esther and her family have been members of our church for the last/past seven years.

In this particular sentence which word would work best? And what would their respective meanings convey?

  • I contest the duplicate statements for this is a completely different sentence and context. I feel that by placing this question under duplicate status one would be undermining the resourceful nature of this website and academics.
    – O_Maina
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 23:52
  • 1
    If your question isn't answered by any of the proposed duplicates O_Maina, you should edit your question to explain that you've read them and why they don't help answer your question. That said, the first proposed duplicate isn't even about the difference between past and last - it's about the prepositions "in/for the last/past". The second proposed duplicate is a terrible quality question (although at least the answer is up-voted). The third proposed duplicate has no up-voted answer, which makes it a terrible candidate to redirect this question to.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 4:10
  • That makes sense. I’ll make a point to do that next time.
    – O_Maina
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 18:01

1 Answer 1


It is inherently a duplicate. As mentioned the particular example is different but past perfect progressive vs past simple doesn't make any difference.

However, there might be some things to add, particularly since you fleshed out your question nicely with two more and as we are talking about a progressive case, shades of continuity can creep in more so.

Both can be used but there are nuances that might shade your leaning towards a particular one. I'd contend "last" connotates some likelihood that the seven year membership might be up (or that there is some suspicion on the part of the speaker that it may be up), whereas "past" makes this possibility less likely. Another connotation is that "last" is more likely than "past" to be identified with stricter calendar boundaries (if stating "financial years" e.g., last is more commonly used).

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