I'm moving out of my current place in a few days. When I'm doing something a little annoying to my roommate, I joke, "sorry, this is (will be) like the 4th last time I do this", to mean that I'm only gonna do it 3 (a few) more times, so don't sweat, and forgive me. Am I using "4th last time" right?

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    If you wanted to be obtusely verbose about it, you could say "this is my preantepenultimate move." :-) – Hellion Mar 25 at 12:27
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    Expect a response along the lines of “my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle”. – Roman Odaisky Mar 25 at 14:47

I would always say 4th to last time.

"Fourth last time" sounds like it's the 4th time you're saying it for the last time.

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    I was just about to say the same - to completely avoid ambiguity, 'fourth to last time' – Smock Mar 25 at 12:09
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    That's where a hyphen would remove the ambiguity: ‘the fourth-last time’ clearly means there will be three more. — Hyphens seem to be out of fashion, but I think they're jolly handy and deserve to be used more! (And if everyone used them, then ‘the fourth last time’ would clearly mean that it follows three other last times.) – gidds Mar 25 at 13:45
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    @gidds A hyphen does indeed disambiguate, but I doubt the asker is submitting jokes to their room-mate in writing. – David Richerby Mar 25 at 14:44
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    @DavidRicherby: Seeing how people these days use their phones to type messages to people in the same room, it wouldn't surprise me! But even in speech, you can hint at hyphenation in your rhythm and timing. (In ‘fourth-last’, the ‘last’ would follow more quickly and with less emphasis than in ‘fourth last’.) After all, punctuation developed as a way of capturing the pauses, emphases, &c of spoken language, and only more recently acquired semantic significance. – gidds Mar 25 at 15:05

Yes, if after saying this, you will, or are planning to, do the same thing 3 more times, then you can definitely say, "Sorry, this was like the 4th last time I do this", or more like "4th last time I plan to do this."

I see nothing wrong with the use of "4th last time" here.


I read the statement "this is like the 4th last time I do this." to mean you have stated "this is the last time I do this" three times already.

Unless you have said this three times, then I would say you are not using the word "4th" correctly in this manner.

If you are trying to say "I am only doing this three more times", then you could say the phrase "sorry, I have to do this three more times."

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    Wrong. "Fourth last" (or "Nth last") is as common as second-last or third-last. It's completely obvious that "fourth-last" has the same meaning as second-last, third-last, etc. – Fattie Mar 25 at 11:24
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    although "this is like the 4th 'last time' I do this" would mean it has already been the 'last time' 3 times already – Smock Mar 25 at 12:11

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