Is it grammatically wrong to say

It's been too hot in the last / the past few days

It's been too hot for the last / the past few days

I saw this following sentence also, can we omit in it?

He's had two new cars in the last / in the past three years


He's had two new cars the last / in the past three years

Is there a strict rule in using of preposition or non-preposition when we use the last/past ?

What is the structure when I refer to weeks, months ?

  • As I imagine saying it, leave out the preposition. That's easier than debating which preposition to use.
    – user3169
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 19:29
  • @user3169 you mean it is ok for the third sentence also?
    – Mrt
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 19:30
  • We can the last few days to mean for the last few days. In other words we can use it to describe continuous situations, or actions that continue for the duration of the period. We cannot use it to describe completed events. For this reason "I've had two new cars the past few years" is not grammatical. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 7:37

2 Answers 2


Last week, month etc. is the week, month just before this one. The last week, month etc. is the period of X days up to the moment of speaking.

I was in Paris last week.

I have had a cold for the last week.

I have been busy for the last three weeks.

Sometimes the last means the last in a series. If you want to say that something happened during this period, you say that it happened in the last three weeks or during the last three weeks.

He had asked himself that question at least a thousand times in the last eight days.

Something funny happened in the last week of the holidays.

If you don't say the number, you can say

Many changes have been made in the last few years.

Or use recent instead. For example, you can say

Many changes have been made in recent years. Interest in golf has grown rapidly in recent years.

The past+ a noun is used to refer to the period up until now. ("their activities over the past two years").

During the past two weeks ten people have died of the desease. She has been feeling tired for the past three days.

The sources are Longman Exams Dictionary, M. Swan PEU, Collins COBUILD English Usage

I think it is clear that you should use prepositions in your sentences."For"(to say how long),during,in,over (something goes on within a period of time) would do.


1.(a) It's been too hot in the last few days.
1.(b) It's been too hot for the last few days.

They are both correct, but can either mean the same thing or different. While #1.(b) is unambiguous, #1.(a) is not. Grammatically #1.(b) can mean throughout the entire period it's been hot. But #1.(a) mean either the same as #1.(b) or that it was too hot only at some particular time during the last few days.

But even saying so generally they both mean the similar thing that it's been hot throughout the entire period measured by last few days. And in this meaning the sentence #1.(a) is much more common.

Consider -

2.(a) He had been (at) home for the last few days. (Using in in place of for sounds bad, when you mean during the last few days he were never out of home.)
2.(b) It had been a trend in the last few years. (Using for in place of in sounds bad)

Generally for completed action we use in, and for the action that progresses we use for.

And I can't comment on whether to drop the preposition and still sound grammatical. To me dropping the preposition there is wrong.

  • 2
    + 1 Dropping the preposition (or rather just using the noun phrase as an Adjunct) is grammatical when it describes a situation or action that lasted for the whole period. It may give the sentence a slightly informal feel. The speaker's first sentence is a conversational one, and so that would be fine because the hotness describes a situation that lasted for that period. Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 7:40
  • @Araucaria thanks! But I have some problem with those NPs that can act as an adjunct. What I observed is that not all NPs can function like that. So how to judge? I've not found any good explanation neither in CGEL nor in Quirk et al. Well, there are some papers on this subject, but they are full of linguistic theories and formulas that resembles to mathematics. I don't know how that helps. So naturally that paper didn't make any sense. So I request you to please address this issue and write a good answer. I have already asked a question here regarding this subject, but no good answer :( Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 15:31
  • @Araucaria Or if you can provide me with some material on this subject, it would also be very helpful. (I'm a learner, no knowledge of linguistic theories, so give me something bearing this on mind :P) Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 15:35

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