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What would be the right equivalent for "current" when I speak in terms of the past?

For example, this sentence sounds okay to me:

These days, increasing her listening comprehension is all she needs to do at her current stage of learning French.

but when I put it into past, something just doesn't sit right with the usage of "current":

In those days, increasing her listening comprehension was all she needed to do at her current stage of learning French.

Is my apprehension here correct? It looks to me that the word "current" has an invisible, yet quite a strong connection to the time of speaking and, thus, cannot be easily used in the past.

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"Current" (or "present") is not necessarily wrong in that context, as the reader will understand you mean "current at that time". However, to avoid confusion, there are a couple of other expressions you can use. You may have to rewrite the sentences to make them fit better:

at the/that time: Based on her level of French proficiency at the time, all she needed was to increase her listening comprehension skills.

existing: *At her existing level of French proficiency, all she needed was to increase her listening comprehension skills.

There are other possible expressions that have other nuanced meanings, such as "concurrent" or "throughout", but these may not fit what you are trying to say.

(Edit) As Accumulation points out, you don't really need to use "current" at all. It's redundant since you already use "In those days". Your sentence is also somewhat awkwardly phrased. It might sound better if you reorganize the sentence:

In those days, she felt her French proficiency was good enough that all she needed to do was increase her listening comprehension.

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You don't really need the word; if you just say "In those days, increasing her listening comprehension was all she needed to do at her stage of learning French," it's clear that you mean her stage at the time. In fact, "current" is often listed as a top over-used word; it's generally clear from context what time period is meant. If you don't think it's obvious, you can explicitly say it: "In those days, increasing her listening comprehension was all she needed to do at the stage of learning French she was at then" or "In those days, increasing her listening comprehension was all she needed to do at her stage of learning French at the time." If you want a single word to replace "current", there's "concurrent" or "contemporaneous".

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One way of having current make sense is to modify it with then:

In those days, increasing her listening comprehension was all she needed to do at her then current stage of learning French.

This deliberately indicates that current is being used relative to the past period of time.


It's the equivalent of avoiding the following kind of ambiguity:

A year ago, the CEO of the company did something remarkable.

That sentence sound perfectly normal. However, consider this scenario:

  • Mike is the current CEO of the company.
  • A year ago, Jane was the CEO of the company.

In order to make it clear that the sentence is talking about what Jane did, we can modify it in a couple of ways:

A year ago, the CEO of the company at the time did something remarkable.
A year ago, the then CEO of the company did something remarkable.

While it's a matter of preference and style which modification you make, using then is the simplest form of modification—and it also lets you retain the word current rather than using something else.

  • There should be a hyphen between "then" and "current". – Acccumulation Mar 27 at 19:20
  • @Acccumulation My impression is I've seen the phrase more often without a hyphen than with one. Although I've seen a hyphen used by some people, I personally find it looks more natural when kept open. (But it would not overly bother me to see it hyphenated by someone else.) I think it's pretty subjective. On the other hand, I would write then-CEO Jane because then-CEO would be a compound adjective that modified Jane. – Jason Bassford Mar 27 at 19:40
  • @Acccumulation Per Merriam-Webster's definition of the adjectival sense of then: "existing or acting at or belonging to the time mentioned // the then secretary of state." No hyphen. (Granted, putting a hyphen with that phrase would be awkward anyway . . .) – Jason Bassford Mar 27 at 19:48

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