Is it natural to say years ago meaning a lot of years ago? For example:

I was an excellent football player years ago.

  • 1
    Yes, this is fine. – TypeIA Jul 12 '19 at 8:52

The word years is the key here, since it's plural.

Ago - You use ago when you are referring to past time. For example, if something happened one year ago, it is one year since it happened. If it happened a long time ago, it is a long time since it happened. Collins Dictionary

Since we have specified that it is years, this means it's more than one. Not specifying how many years. i.e. saying:

two years ago

a few years ago

several years ago

Then we can assume that it is so many years ago that we have forgotten the exact time period. Hence, "years ago" tends to imply a long time.

  • 2
    People will often use many years, but certainly not always. And, barring further clarification, I'd say that many is assumed to be present, even if it isn't. More generally, if you don't mean many, you'll clarify. As in this answer. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 12 '19 at 13:23

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