Podcast #136 NEXT and LAST in Time Expressions

Published in the category Grammar and Usage, Indefinite Words, Other

Welcome to Podcast #136 of ESL Aloud. In the previous lesson you learned how to express indefinite duration in expressions like for a few hours and for several months. You learned not to use the word some in this type of expression. In this lesson you will learn how to avoid another common type of error made by English learners when they are expressing duration.

Listen to these incorrect sentences:

In the next days we will accomplish a great deal.

During the last months we have had no rain.

When you are expressing duration it is incorrect to form an expression of time made up of the word next or last followed directly by units of time. So it is wrong to say in the next days and it is wrong to say during the last months. You have to add an indefinite adjective like few or several or an exact number. So instead of the incorrect in the next days you could say in the next few days or in the next couple of days. Instead of the incorrect during the last months you could say during the last several months or during the last five months.

Now listen to these three sentences which have exactly the same meaning.

During the last few weeks we have had many storms.

In the last few weeks we have had many storms.

Over the last few weeks we have had many storms.

For the last few weeks we have had many storms.

In these sentences it doesn’t matter whether you use during, in, over or for. The same can be true for expressions of duration containing next instead of last. Just listen.

We’ll be working had during the next couple of months.

We’ll be working hard in the next couple of months.

We’ll be working hard over the next couple of months.

We’ll be working hard for the next couple of months.

Here are two more things to remember about expressing duration with next and last:

1. Using for and over is much more common than using during and in.

2. Although the words with during, in, over and for are very often interchangeable, you cannot always substitute one for the other.

During the last few weeks we have had many storms.

In the last few weeks we have had many storms.

Over the last few weeks we have had many storms.

For the last few weeks we have had many storms.

We’ll be working hard during the next couple of months.

We’ll be working hard in the next couple of months.

We’ll be working hard over the next couple of months.

We’ll be working hard for the next couple of months.

For the next few hours there will be no phone service.

Our business grew 50% over the last couple of years.

In the last few months water quality has improved.

My work will be evaluated over the next six weeks.

During the next several years they sold all their land.

Over the last couple of days she sent many text messages.

For the next few minutes I need total silence.

She totally changed her life in the last couple of years.

For the last several weeks I have followed her on Facebook.

Over the next few years we expect our sales to triple.

During the last several days the situation has worsened.

I want to just read for the next couple of hours.

In the last three years he has rebuilt his life.

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The ESL Aloud podcast lessons are designed for people who want to increase their abilities in speaking English as a second language (ESL).