Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

You need specific time phrases when discussing your past.

Should you share a specific date or should you be more general?

Sharing details about your past is the easiest way to make a connection.

In today’s episode, learn English phrases that will help you provide details about the past in a native, natural way.


Aubrey asked Lindsay when was the last time she mowed a lawn.

Lindsay doesn’t remember the last time she did.

I haven’t mowed a lawn in forever!

Aubrey shares that in Arizona, it is recommended not to water lawns because of the drought.

She may no longer need to mow a lawn since their area features desert scaping.

Lindsay mentioned that many areas use zero-scaping.

Zero-scaping is where you don’t use any plants in your yard but instead use rocks or fake grass.

Having this in place requires no maintenance or watering at all.

When was the last time?

The question ‘When was the last time…’ is a good conversation starter.

Starting your question this way will make the person you’re talking to feel that you’re interested in learning about them.

You should find common things you can talk about and connect further.

Showing interest in what they did or did not do in the past is a great way to do this.

The topic in today’s episode was inspired by a listener question:

Hi! I’m Tomoko. I’ve been listening to and having fun with your podcast for so long.

My English learning has been awesome since I found your podcast and I’m really grateful to have access. I

have a question. When I was listening to one of your episodes the other day, I wondered if I ever mentioned a specific year to talk about something that has happened since.

For example, Lindsay said something like ‘I haven’t had a car since 2004…’ Is it something related to cultural differences, or personal preference?

I have heard something similar a lot and it would be great if you could do an episode about it.

Aubrey then summarizes the rest of Tomoko’s email.

She asked this question because it is different in Japan.

Tomoko shares that they don’t usually give specific dates when talking about the past.

She wonders if this is a cultural difference or is about the English language.

How to share details about the past

When you’re talking about the past with someone, it is a combination of both culture and preference.

You can also consider the relationship between you and the person you’re talking to.

It really is up to you how much detail you want to share when talking about your past.

If you want emphasize how long it has been since something has happened to you, you can mention a specific date.

You can also make your conversation more interesting when you share details.

However, be careful not to overdo it.

You don’t need to be too detailed and bore the person you’re talking to.

Sharing too many details can also be oversharing and disrupt the connection.

Avoid losing momentum if you’re stuck remembering the date your story happened.

Here are some phrases you can use when you can remember a date in the past to share in your conversation:

#1: ‘I haven’t driven a car in years.’

You can use this to refer to something that happened within a span of five to ten years.

This is so native and natural to use.

It’s very broad and creates interest.

#2: ‘I haven’t exercised in ages.’

There is more exaggeration in this phrase.

It doesn’t necessarily mean it has been a long time.

You can use this to say you haven’t done something in weeks or days.

We often exaggerate for extra emphasis.

#3: ‘I haven’t seen movies in forever.’

This is another exaggeration.

It feels the most native and modern.

It doesn’t make sense logically but we use it to emphasize.

It’s perfect for expressing how long you haven’t done something.


Lindsay and Aubrey share a roleplay to clarify how to share a time or a date when talking about your past in English.

In this scenario, Lindsay and Aubrey ran into each other in a coffee shop.

Aubrey: How are you? I haven’t seen you in forever!
Lindsay: Oh my gosh! It has been ages! I’m great. How are you?
Aubrey: As well as can be expected. My sister is in the hospital so that’s been tough.
Lindsay: Oh sorry to hear it. I haven’t seen her in ages. I saw on Facebook that she’s fighting cancer but I thought she was in remission.
Aubrey: She had a relapse, unfortunately. It hadn’t been a problem in years and suddenly showed up in scans again.


It is great to share something in your past with someone and make that connection.

Finding similar things you’re interested in or the same experiences you’ve gone through can really strengthen a relationship.

It’s a matter of starting that conversation and using the right phrases to get your thoughts across.

You can use these new phrases to make you sound more like a native English speaker when sharing your past.

What is it like in your culture when sharing dates in your conversations?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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