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So I have been studying many examples about this. I want to make sure that I am right in assuming the following and have a question in the end. So today is Thursday.

In the last week, I have been on four dates.

This means from last Thursday until today, I have gone on four dates. These four dates could have happened on one single day of these days between last Thursday and today. Or maybe two dates happened on one day and another two on another day between last Thursday and today. Or another time occurences.

Last week, I went on four dates.

This means last Thursday I went on four dates. Meaning on that day, I went on four dates OR last Thursday, I had been on four dates, meaning that I could have gone on these dates any day before last Thursday?

Thank you.

  • To me, a native English (American) speaker, they mean the same thing: from last Thursday or Friday until today, you have been on four dates. – Ron Jensen Nov 13 '15 at 1:23
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In the last week, I have been on four dates.

Your interpretation is correct, but is only one possibility. This will either mean that

1) Between last Thursday and today, you have been on 4 dates, or

2) Between the start of the current week and today you have been on four dates. (Since Sunday or Monday, depending on where you are)

Last week, I went on four dates.

Your interpretation of this is wrong. If you said "Last Thursday, I went on four dates," it would mean you went on all four dates on that single day. But saying last week refers to the full time span of the last week.

There are a couple likely interpretations.

1) During the previous calendar week (Sunday to Saturday or Monday to Sunday) you went on four dates, on any combination of days.

2) From the previous Thursday to today, you've been on four dates.

In short, the two mean the same thing if you are counting back from the current Thursday, but refer to different weeks if you are using calender weeks starting on a Sunday or Monday. And without further context, a listener won't know exactly what you mean. In many cases, this doesn't matter: they still know you went on a lot of dates recently.

The best rule of thumb is that if the differences matter, don't use these constructions because they are open to interpretation. Specify that you mean "Between last Thursday and today, I went on four dates."

  • But many sites have said that the past tense refers to a specific time, meaning it happened at one time in the past and that's it. I still don't get it, but thank you for answering. – Ghaith Alrestom Nov 13 '15 at 2:13
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    @GhaithAlrestom You have misunderstood, or those sites have misspoken. You may not use the present perfect with a specific past time or with a timespan which does not reach the immediate present; you may use the simple past with either of these or with a timespan which does reach the immediate present. – StoneyB Nov 13 '15 at 3:31
  • Yeah, but in his answer, number 2, "From the previous Thursday to today, you have been on four dates" how could this be true in accordance with simple past rules? It is the same as present perfect in that interpretation. Right? – Ghaith Alrestom Nov 13 '15 at 5:02

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