Past year vs last year

Question

Past year vs last year – I thought both were the same until I heard my friend using it in different contexts. Can you explain the difference?

Answer

Your friend is correct. Contrary to popular perception, there is a subtle difference between past year and last year.

While past year is used to refer to the period of 365 days immediately preceding today, last year is used to refer to the last calender year.

For example : The athlete made rapid progress last year ( 2011.) However, his performance has not improved much in the past year       ( between August 17, 2011 and August 16, 2012.)

The same difference applies to all time periods namely past month vs last month, past day vs last day, past week vs last week etc.,

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Santhosh Karnananda

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