Carol była w Bostonie w poprzednim miesiącu.

Polish seems to have several adjectives (that I have encountered so far on CM) which describe something which happened in a previous time period e.g. ‘last year’ … poprzednim/zeszłym/przeszłym roku. Are these adjectives interchangeable, or is there a difference between them? As learner, which is the most universal and therefore ‘safest’ one to use? Thanks

Hm, let’s see. In this particular sentence, “zeszłym” (last / past) and “poprzednim” (previous) work equally well. I think “ostatnim” (last) would also be a good choice here.

“Przeszłym” would sound off in this sentence—it’s only used in a handful of fixed phrases like “czas przeszły” (past tense).

I think “poprzedni” is the most universal of the three—it works in most contexts involving “last” or “previous”. It works well with expressions of time (“poprzedni rok”, “poprzedni miesiąc”). For example, if you wanted to say “go back to the previous chapter”, “poprzedni” would definitely be the safest choice.

“Zeszły” is very common in phrases involving time like “zeszły miesiąc”, “zeszły tydzień”—and only in these phrases. You can’t, for example, use “zeszły rozdział” to say “last chapter”.

Please note that unlike the other phrases you could use, “zeszły” always takes the current date as the point of reference. So if I was now talking about events that took place in March 2018 and I used the phrase “poprzedni miesiąc”, it would most likely refer to February 2018 (just like saying “the previous month”). If I say “zeszły miesiąc” instead, it can’t mean anything else than August 2018 (as of now).

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Thanks! It is more complicated than I imagined. Apart from the CM exercises, I think I’d be best to remember ‘porzedni’ as my first choice. Interestingly, after approximately 20,000 sentences, zeszły and przeszły (and variants thereof) have appeared several times, however, I think this is the first time I’ve seen poprzedni.