"Last night" in reported speech

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rightnow

Senior Member
Spanish
Page 516 of the Collins English Usage reads
A place clause usually goes after the main clause. However, in stories, the place clause can be put first
Where Kate had stood last night, Maureen now stood
Is it possible for last night to mean "the previous night"?
Secondly, is this a general use of the adjective last in reported clauses?
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I don't think so, and nothing in this example suggests it. Last night = the night immediately preceding the present moment.

    Today is Thursday. Where Kate had stood last night = where she stood on Wednesday night.
    But bear in mind that this is an imaginary fragment of a unknown writing, possibly written in the first person with all the emotional (i.e. illogical) implications that that brings. If you are planning to use reported speech, stick to the normal structures: "Where Kate had stood the previous night/the night before, Maureen now stood".
     
    Last edited:

    rightnow

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    No. The last night = the final night (of a series). E.g: the last night of our holidays... The Last Night of the Proms...
    Dickens [Wikisource], in Edwin Drood (p 125) uses 'last night' deictically in a narrative:
    The Weir ran through his broken sleep, all night, and he was back again at sunrise. It was a bright frosty morning. The whole composition before him, when he stood where he had stood last night, was clearly discernible in its minutest details.
    So such temporal adverbials are licensed by authors of stature.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    You quoted the wrong part of my reply, Rightnow. Your Dickens example doesn't relate to the last night.

    But I think your example is very like the one in #1 in that this is Dickens relating another person's dream, and the same proviso applies to it that I wrote earlier: this is an imaginary fragment ... with all the emotional (i.e. illogical) implications that that brings.
     
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