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Substantial progress has been made in the last years in order to answer the question what an optimal strategy for this network constitutes.

Substantial progress has been made in the last years in order to answer the question, what constitutes an optimal strategy for this network.

Which sentence should I use, the first or the second?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Your second example is correct. The first isn't a valid sentence.

However, I do suggest that in general it might be better to stick with words you do know how to use. I have the impression you want your sentence to sound knowledgeable, professional, and impressive. But don't forget the main purpose of most communication is to convey the primary meaning itself, not secondary impressions about the status of the writer.

Having said that, you don't want in the last years. It should be in recent years.

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Thank you very much for your answer! – TriSSSe Jun 6 '11 at 22:25
Just for clarification. Is it wrong to use in the last years or just bad style? And why? – TriSSSe Jun 7 '11 at 18:12
@Christian: In your context, it's wrong. You could say in the last years of Queen Victoria's reign, for example (though final years would be much preferred). But where the time-frame is relative to implicit but non-specified "today", you can't really get away with that. – FumbleFingers Jun 7 '11 at 18:33
Thanks again - very helpful. – TriSSSe Jun 7 '11 at 19:16

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