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Is it correct to say:

I need those reports, and I need them yesterday.

Shouldn't it be:

I needed those reports yesterday.

Or is this aberrant usage style simply a colloquialism?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

This usage of yesterday is idiomatic, it's basically a synonym for "as soon as possible".

  • I need those reports, and I need them yesterday. ≈ I need them ASAP.
  • I needed those reports yesterday. ≈ There was a situation yesterday in which I actually needed them.
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Even the first one can carry an implication that there was a situation yesterday when it was needed: "If you could travel back in time and do it yesterday, that is what I want, but if not, then please do it as soon as possible!" In actual usage, it is like saying "give me 110%" — there was already an expression "100%", so the only way to be more emphatic than that is to say "110%". The only way to make something seem more urgent than "I need it NOW" is to say "I need it YESTERDAY". –  Kosmonaut Mar 15 '11 at 17:18
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@Kosmonaut: I find no such implication. It is merely a hyperbolic expression of urgency –  Colin Fine Mar 15 '11 at 17:43
    
@Colin Fine: I dunno what to tell you :) –  Kosmonaut Mar 15 '11 at 17:45
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@Kosmonaut: I suppose (I suppose!) that this is one of those cases where the default meaning depends on your personal experience. If my boss tells me that he needs something yesterday, more often than not he's exaggerating, or even joking. And by "more often than not" I mean "every single time". But other people might not be so lucky, that's for sure. –  RegDwigнt Mar 15 '11 at 18:42
    
cool. It makes it clear now. –  tugberk Jun 11 '11 at 7:36

It means, "Today isn't really soon enough." (If I could, I would turn back the clock to yesterday to have those reports delivered.)

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