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I catch a lot of grief about this from family and friends, so I figured I'd settle the score once and for all.

In verbal context (though not written), I tend to use the phrase

... yesterday night...

rather than last night. Is this grammatically correct, regardless of how uncommon it might be?

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Possible duplicate of Why “last night” and not “yesterday night”? –  RegDwigнt Mar 17 '11 at 18:36
    
I'd vote for the archaic "yesternight" myself...why have "yesterday" and "yesteryear" survived, but not "yesternight"? While we're at it, let's have "yesterweek", "yestermonth", "yesterevening"... –  PSU Mar 17 '11 at 21:37
    
@PSU: yesterfebruary? Or we could just use a word like "last"? –  MrHen Mar 21 '11 at 19:10
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@MrHen: Of course, "last" is the way we'd really go. But I'm going to keep "yesterfebruary", and thanks for it. –  PSU Mar 22 '11 at 17:34
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@PSU: Fair enough. And I must admit that words such as "yesterlunch" sound really awesome. –  MrHen Mar 22 '11 at 17:41
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7 Answers 7

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I'm not sure it's incorrect strictly speaking, but it triggers some cognitive dissonance because "yesterday" implies day rather than night. Just say "last night" already. ;)

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By that logic "yesterday morning" should have the same effect, correct? –  user6223 Mar 17 '11 at 18:26
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if only logic had anything to do with languages :P –  tenfour Mar 17 '11 at 18:31
    
@user6223: Well... morning is part of day. :) –  Kelly Hess Mar 17 '11 at 19:05
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I’d argue one could say “yesterday evening” without implying daytime… –  Brian Nixon Mar 17 '11 at 20:37
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@KellyCHess What do you mean by already at the end of your response? –  Meysam Jan 11 '12 at 7:38
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Well, as per generally accepted English semantics, yesterday night is not correct. In strict grammatic sense, it may not be incorrect, but as far as usage in both verbal or written context is concerned, last night is the only correct form

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Usage rather than isoformal patterning is usually taken to be the measure of acceptability. 'Twilight' is of course a noun referring to a time during the day; 'Just a song at twilight' would probably be quite acceptable to most critics. However, I'd mark Yesterday twilight, the fridge broke down. as being incorrect. –  Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 '12 at 21:58
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This is grammatically correct, indeed, assuming:

  1. You are using it as an adverbial adjunct, as in Yesterday night I went to the movies.
  2. You believe the word yesterday is a noun (as in Yesterday is over.) functioning as an adjective (just like with yesterday morning).

Then, yesterday night is a valid noun phrase, however awkward. In fact, I find it pretty common! :D

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"Last night" is more specific but I don't think anyone would object to calling "tonight" part of "today."

(At night) What did you do today?

(At night) What day is it today?

However, you certainly wouldn't say "today night" instead of "tonight."

I checked my local dictionary for a definition of "yesterday": the day before today.

My guess is that "day" here implies a 24 hour period. That period includes a night and saying "yesterday night" provides an unambiguous reference to a specific time.

All of that being said, "last night" sounds better and takes less time to type and write. The only reason I can see for saying it is to bug your friends which, in my opinion, isn't good enough.

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In and of itself, day encompasses the whole day. Usage makes it seem as if it applies to only the sunlit part of the day. To make "yesterday night" more seamless, yesternight might be the better choice. Just hand anyone who objects a dictionary.

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I'd say overall that yesterday night sounds nonstandard, but I checked for it in the corpus, and found that it is attested, and even in professional-sounding contexts; see the following quote (from a newscast):

Tomorrow is the funeral of the late Prime Minister. From a legal point of view, Mr. Peres is, as of yesterday night, acting Prime Minister. There is a take-care government. The President will call on the president, on Mr. Peres within a few days to establish a new government, with the real shock an earthquake of grief that we all feel here, there is and must be stability in the political system.

Here yesterday night seems just as good as last night, though I couldn't say exactly why (Rabin was assassinated in the evening).

Why not start using yestreen?

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Certainly yestereve and yestermorn both exist, or at least, did so once upon a time under the fresh-fallen snows of yesteryear. OED citations: “§1859 Tennyson Marr. Geraint 702 ― And yester-eve I would not tell you of it, But kept it for a sweet surprise at morn. §1864 W. C. Bryant Italy 39 ― Slaves but yester-eve were they-Freeman with the dawning day.” There was also yestern, meaning “of yesterday” and functioning as both adjective and adverb. OED citation: “1891 Ld. Houghton Stray Verses 85, ― I linger on the oaken bridge Fine-filigreed with yestern snow.” –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 6:48
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protected by Will Hunting Nov 11 '12 at 3:30

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