Our son was born last week does not sound weird to me. Actually Our son was born in the last week sounds a little bit unusual. But thinking about it, I find the latter one more correct grammatically. It feels like this was the original usage but people omitted "in the" in some time in history. What is the opinion of native speakers on this?

P.S. A French learning website marked "Our son was born in the last week" wrong as the translation of "Notre fils est né la semaine dernière".

2 Answers 2


'In the last week' suggests that you don't know when exactly your son was born, but are sure it was no more than one week ago, which would, as you observe, be an odd thing for a new parent to say. 'Last week' is natural though. The French website is right. La semaine dernière means 'last week', and la dernière semaine means 'the last week'.

'In the last week' means 'during the seven days prior to today' and 'last week' means 'during the calendar week prior to the current one'. They have different meanings.

  • Thank you for explaining the difference. Is it possible that "in the ..." was the default usage for all cases but was dropped it in time?
    – Xfce4
    Sep 5, 2021 at 12:15
  • @Xfce4 - see my second paragraph, just added. Sep 5, 2021 at 12:16
  • MichaelHarvey Is it a different context in this comment?
    – Xfce4
    Sep 5, 2021 at 12:25
  • @Xfce4 My answer applies in the context of the 2015 question. Sep 5, 2021 at 12:34
  • 1
    The different meanings of 'in the last week', and 'last week', that I explained in my answer apply to what RonJensen wrote. He was mistaken in his comment. Sep 5, 2021 at 13:48

To elaborate on your intuitions about grammaticality, many time expression modifiers that situate an event on the calendar do not require a preposition like in or on:

  • We arrived today.
  • We arrived last week.
  • We arrived this morning. = We arrived (today) in the morning.
  • We arrived yesterday morning. = We arrived yesterday in the morning.
  • We arrived Tuesday. = We arrived on Tuesday.
  • We arrived November 1. = We arrived on November 1.

Others do require a preposition, however:

  • We arrived at 5:00.
  • We arrived in November.

Some other kinds of temporal expressions can occur without a preposition:

  • We lived here a year. = We lived here for a year. (duration)
  • We ate here several times. (frequency)

But for establishing a time span relative to the present in which something happens, a marker like in is generally required:

  • We have to leave (sometime) in the next 10 minutes.
  • They left (sometime) in the last 10 minutes.
  • We haven't eaten there in a year.

And compare the following, which establish a point in time relative to the present, rather than a time span:

  • They left 10 minutes ago.
  • They have to leave in 10 minutes. = They have to leave 10 minutes from now.
  • Thank you for explaining the difference. It is possible say "that's just the way it is" but I don't find it logical or consistent when we do not use any prepositions before time. It is like an abrupt language hack to distinguish the meaning.
    – Xfce4
    Sep 7, 2021 at 5:58

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