the past two days, the past year

Discussion in '中文+方言 (Chinese)' started by electricusa, Jun 10, 2014.

  1. electricusa New Member

    English-United States
    How would you say "the past two days" or "the past year"? 前两天 means two days ago not the past few days right?
     
  2. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Canada
    Mandarin 國語
    去年 = last year (the previous calender year) or 过去的一年 the past year (a period of one year before the present day).
    前年 = the year before last.
    一年前 = one year ago.

    (过去的)这两天 = the past two days.
    前两天 = a couple days ago
    两天前 = two days ago.
     
  3. electricusa New Member

    English-United States

    is there a difference between 前两天and 两天前?
     
  4. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Canada
    Mandarin 國語
    两天前 is exactly "two days ago". 前两天 is ambiguous. It means 1) "a couple of days ago", which is approximately two days ago and synonymous with "the other day" 日前, "a few days ago" 前几天 and "several days ago" 前些天, or 2) 之前的两天 "for a couple of days before a specified time". The latter often involves the use of 都 (e.g., 我大考前两天都无法安眠 I couldn't sleep for a couple of days before the entrance exam".
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014
  5. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    【1】前两天,过去的两天
    【2】去年,过去的一年
    【3】前两天 can mean either "the past two days" or "the past few days". It's ambiguous. If you want to be precise, say 过去的两天.
    【4】To be accurate, 前两天 is not equal to 两天前. 前两天: the past two or several days; 两天前: two days ago.
     
  6. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Interesting. I've always thought 前两天 = 前天+昨天
     
  7. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Canada
    Mandarin 國語
    I would have imagined that 前两天 = 今天之前的两天 = 昨天 + 前天. It turns out that in daily conversations 前两天 usually means "the other day" (e.g., 前两天我在报纸看到这条消息), which doesn't mean both 昨天 and 前天.
     
  8. xiaolijie

    xiaolijie MOD

    UK
    English (UK)
    前两天 can mean any of the following:
    - in the past two days
    - two days ago
    - in the past few days
    - a few days ago/ the other day

    Therefore, the context is needed to know which one is really meant, and questions without context may confuse you further.
    (It can also mean something else in addition to the listed above, but I must save you the confusion! :D)
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014
  9. retrogradedwithwind Senior Member

    Chinese
    very interesting.

    I think 前两天 is the most common word to refer to a time point of the near past. Of course, it has other meanings as listed above.
    前两天+ 做了某事(did something) is the most common collocation.

    Usually, in Chinese 两 means two or several(around two), as with 两三(个),三四,三五, etc。
     
  10. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Canada
    Mandarin 國語
    Exactly. That's what I have been trying to emphasize: 前两天 usually, though not always, refers to a point of time (e.g., "the other day") rather than to a period of time (e.g., "in the past two days"). If it refers to a period of time, it is often followed by 都 (前两天都...).
     
  11. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Because I say 前几天 to intend "the other day", but that may be dialect interference.
     
  12. retrogradedwithwind Senior Member

    Chinese
    Yes, 前几天, together with 这几天 这两天, is also very common. I can't tell which one of the four is more common.

    Here 两=几( around two), 这两天=这几天, 前两天=前几天。

    But what is the nuance between 这两天 and 前两天?:confused:

    前几天 vs 前两天?
     
  13. Skatinginbc

    Skatinginbc Senior Member

    Canada
    Mandarin 國語
    这两天 indicates a time period (e.g., 这两天我没有看到他 = 我昨天和前天都没有看到他) whereas 前两天 usually refers to a point of time.
    前几天 (several days ago, about two or more days ago) ≥ 前两天 (approximately two or three days ago).
     
  14. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Then it's dialect interference, because in my dialect 前几天 can also cover 前两天 and we don't make such distinction.
     
  15. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    Just like that in English, "couple" doesn't necessarily mean "two"...
     
  16. BODYholic Senior Member

    Singapore
    Chinese Cantonese
    Yes, there is a difference between the two. 前两天 is a little more tricky as "前"(an indefinite adjective) modifies 两天 (a definite noun). Hence, its meaning depends largely on what "前" refers to. As what XLJ said, the context is important in this case.

    Without context, native speakers perceive "前" as something recent. So 前两天 is usually and conveniently taken as "a couple of days ago" or "recently". e.g. "前两天到北京出差去了。"

    But say, I visited China last year and spent 7 days there. Later, I recounted my trip vividly "前两天在北京,其余五天则在上海。". Here "前" means the initial days of my trip in China, it has nothing to do with "a couple of days ago".

    Ditto here in Singapore. We don't (really know how to) tell them apart.
     

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