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I'd like to ask about the difference between "last month" and "previous month", if there is any.

I am a software developer and I use those relative words as a search input values for date search.

I am wondering, whether last month is correct if I want to refer to the previous month or not.

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Last month is normally used to refer to the month before the current month.

Previous month is normally used to refer to the month before a month that is being spoken of. Thus you have something like "It rained a lot in March but not as much as in the previous month" referring to February.

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"last month" can also be the last month in a list of months, such as "the last month of the year" or "last month of the project" – atk Mar 14 '14 at 16:43

If I’m writing in 2014, and referring to the current year, I can say that the present month is March, and that last month was February.

If I’m writing in 2014, and referring to March 2013, I can say that the previous month was February.

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"Last month" refers to the month before the current one. However, it's never used as "the last month", which instead refers to the last in a series of months (for instance, the last month of the quarter). "The previous month" could be talking about something that happened a month before a specified month, which is also in the past. For instance, "I bought a car last June, after my old car broke the previous month."

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It depends on the language and culture. "This" and "next" or "last" month could all refer to the same month, depending on who you ask. You have to know your audience, and if it could be across several cultures, you need to be more specific (actually name the month to be safe). This, next, last, previous all can have different meanings. In particular, "this" can have a lot of overlap with next/last.

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Isn't it pretty safe to assume that we are talking about the English language? Culture may vary of course. Like the OP, I am also a software developer, and came here looking for some guidance in selecting appropriate terms to use in a user interface where the meaning of relative dates needs to be clear. – ZachOfAllTrades Apr 17 '14 at 17:51
Even in English, there are different cultures and even subsets of cultures (say, professions) who will use this, next, and last in different ways (introducing ambiguity). It's safest to be as specific as possible in naming the time period. Now to bug SE about forcing downvoters to identify themselves... – Phil Perry Apr 17 '14 at 18:42

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