ago for earlier or before

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Thomas Tompion

Senior Member
English - England
I regard it as bad style to say:

He had seen it three weeks ago.

For me ago means from this moment, not from some moment in the past, however well established grammatically in the context.

I would want the sentence rephrased:

He had seen it three weeks earlier.

or

He had seen it three weeks before.

Do you think I'm being over-fussy about this? People seem to say and write it all the time.
 
  • vachecow

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I googled it, and found that ago should only be used in the simple perfect. So, "I left 5 minutes ago" is okay, but "I had left 5 minutes ago" isnt because "had left" is past perfect.
     
    I regard it as bad style to say:

    He had seen it three weeks ago.

    For me ago means from this moment, not from some moment in the past, however well established grammatically in the context.

    I would want the sentence rephrased:

    He had seen it three weeks earlier.

    or

    He had seen it three weeks before.

    Do you think I'm being over-fussy about this? People seem to say and write it all the time.
    Hi Thomas,

    If somone said to me, "I invited her to watch my new DVD but she told me she had seen it three weeks ago," I wouldn't think it odd.

    LRV
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    People seem to say and write it all the time.
    You're right. On this count, at least.
    I googled
    "had * all those years ago" and got 65,100 hist
    "had * all those years before" and got only 673
    (+ 111 for earlier).

    You seem to be right on the other one as well. My COD agrees with you : ago : earlier, before the present.

    I wouldn't find ago odd either, but then that could be because I've become used to it.
     
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