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What is the difference between the following two sentences?

  • This is the vendor from which the item was purchased the last time.
  • This is the vendor from which the item was purchased previously.

Is there a better way to write them?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

"Previously" is more vague than "last time." Last time is a single event, and the most proximate one. Previously can be any time in the past.

In terms of construction, it's passive-voice and can be cleaned up by being more direct:

"I/we purchased [the item] from this vendor last time."

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This is the vendor from which the item was purchased [the] last time.

  • (I would omit the indicated the.)
  • We purchased from this vendor last time.
  • No information about who we purchased from prior to last time: it may have been the same vendor; it may have been someone else.

This is the vendor from which the item was purchased previously.

  • Implies that we used this vendor last time and the few times prior to that.
  • Implies (note: the vendor) that we have used only this vendor (and no others) in at least the recent past.

This is a vendor from which the item was purchased previously.

  • We have used this vendor previously at least once.
  • No information about whether we used him last time and/or prior to that.
  • Implies (note: a vendor) that we have also used other vendors at times.
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A good example of the difference is on TV shows during the recap. You will usually hear the narrator say "previously on [TV show]" which allows the producers to put in excerpts from more than one episode. If they said "last time", they would be more limited in what they edit together.

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