In the sentence below, I want to say that the president of e.g. 10 years ago did something; can I use "current" here? If not, what word suits here?

The current president ordered all of the military units to be ready around the borders.

Somehow, a similar question has been asked earlier, but this isn't quite same so I still haven't got my answer.

Consider this is a documentary and the speaker wants to say that someone (who we don't know who is that) has given an order to the military, the speaker says, (e.g.) John Smith, the (current president of that time) ordered this, the point is that, that guy isn't the president anymore, so we can't use "sitting president", since sitting means the one who is still the president, and in the given context we don't know who is John Smith, so we need that the speaker points out that Smith is the president of that time, I just found it odd to use "current" here, so I'm asking what should be used here, since I have searched on different dictionaries and example sources and didn't find that "current" be used in such examples, so which word should I use?

  • 3
    The current president can only ever be used to refer to someone who is president at time of speaking / writing. It's irrelevant how long ago he/she became president. Feb 28, 2022 at 18:06
  • 2
    Does this answer your question? past-tense equivalent of the word "current" Feb 28, 2022 at 18:52
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    You can say e.g. 'In 1949, the then current president, Harry S Truman...' or leave out 'then current' altogether. Feb 28, 2022 at 18:54
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    The then-president
    – Lambie
    Feb 28, 2022 at 18:58
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    I deleted an answer I was working on because it got too complicated, but besides these suggestions: if the context establishes the time frame well enough, you should be able to simply use "the president" and it will be understood as "the president at the time." E.g. "England's Royal Navy expanded greatly in the late 1500s, as the queen ordered construction of new ships." "The queen" is understood as the queen of England in the late 1500s, not Queen Elizabeth II. Feb 28, 2022 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


You can say

The then president ordered ...


Then president John Smith ordered ...


The president then, John Smith, ordered ...

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