Posted by: Mike | July 26, 2009

“Last time I…”

The expression “last time” is one of the most common expressions that is used wrongly in Malaysia.

The Chinese translation of “last time” is 上次. Not 以前.

While there is no direct Malay translation of the term, “lepas” is used to mean “last” in the sense of “last week, last month” (minggu lepas, bulan lepas) etc.

However, the expression “last time” is often used to translate the Malay word “dahulu”. This is wrong. “Dahulu” means “previously”, “in the past” or “ago” when used with a specific time word (e.g. dua tahun dahulu = two years ago).

“Last time” refers to a specific occurrence of something. It cannot refer to a general time in the past. For that we use “previously” or “in the past”. “Last time” specifically means “on the last occurrence”. For example, a teacher might say to his or her students “Last time we studied the Present Perfect tense”, referring to the last class that he or she taught. The previous class was a specific occurrence of something, and so we can use “last time” here.

However, you cannot say “Last time I was a manager”. This is a wrong use of the term. Being a manager occurs over a particular time period, so we cannot use “last time” here. While you could say “Previously I was a manager” or “In the past, I was a manager”, I think that the best term to use here would be used to: “I used to be a manager”.

So remember: Last time ≠dahulu. Dahulu = “previously” or “in the past”, but in many cases it is better to use “used to”.

Also, I want to bring up the following point. “Last” has two meanings in English. These are:

1. Previous
2. Final

For example, you could say “Last week I went to a sale at Mid Valley Megamall and bought some shoes. This week is the last week of the sale, so if you want to get some, you should go before Friday.

In the first sentence, the word “last” means “previous” – the previous week, i.e. the week before this week. In the second sentence, the word “last” means “final” – this is the final week of the sale, after which the goods return to their normal prices. In some languages, including Malay, each meaning has a different word. In Malay, the first meaning, “Previous” is translated by “lepas” while the second meaning is translated by “terakhir”.

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Responses

  1. it is a good way for me to learn english here..
    this is the expression which i used to get it wrong especially in my conversation with other…i’m great to learn from here and from you…thanks !!

    • Hi Yen Chin,

      I’m glad that you find my blog helpful.

      Since you speak Chinese, remember that “last time” in Chinese is 上次. When you find yourself speaking English and want to use “last time”, think to yourself “Would 上次 make sense here?” If it doesn’t, then you have to use “previously”, “in the past” or restructure your sentence to use “used to”.

      Also remember that names and the first word of sentences always begin with capital letters.

      Cheers

      Mike


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