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I saw that a friend of mine who moved to New York City 3 months ago posted a picture on Facebook. She described it as "last night at New York."

The first time I read it, I thought she meant that it was her last night in New York City and that she was going to move somewhere else the next day. So I asked her and it turned out that "last night" means "yesterday night."

There are two questions I have.

  1. Is it confusing to say "last night at some places"? How can I know whether it means "yesterday night" or "the last night that she will be there"?
  2. If the usage of "last night" in this example is not clear, what are some clearer ways of differentiating between "yesterday night" and "my last night in the city"?
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"In New York last night" and "(The) last night in New York" can be convenient ways to say "the previous night" and "final night" respectively, though it's only one way to rephrase. By the way, you spend a night in New York. –  Kris Dec 8 '12 at 6:55
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First question: "Last night" is perfectly normal English for "yesterday between 5 p.m. and midnight" (night time). Yesterday night is something only non-native speakers of English would use.

Second question: There should be no problem understanding that "last night" means yesterday night. If your friend had meant that it was her last night in NYC because she was going to move somewhere else the next day, she might have said my last night in New York. OTOH, she might have been using shorthand (headline English), which is not unusual for photo captions. Her communication problem rather than your comprehension problem.

Third question (unasked but latent, nascent, and imminent): "At New York" is not idiomatic American English. It has to be in New York.

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Please avoid ALL CAPS. –  coleopterist Dec 8 '12 at 7:28
    
Actually, last night is far more typically the period dusk through dawn. No one would argue that 1am is not the middle of the night. Well, no one below the arctic circle during summer, at least. –  tchrist Dec 8 '12 at 10:30
    
@tchrist: Probably true. Night is when it's dark, whether it's a.m. or p.m., but sometimes it's necessary to distinguish between "today morning" and "yesterday night", as they often say here in Taiwan, and one of those times in when you're in the military and talking time: night ends at 2400 hours and the next day begins at the same time. –  user21497 Dec 8 '12 at 10:44
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I would have expected "Last night at New York" as a caption for some picture of an athletic contest that was a home game for some New York team. At (place) is the standard American English construction for indicating at whose arena (stadium, pitch, etc.) the game was played. Otherwise, "in" would be more common. By the way, there is also the unusual word yestereve to distinguish yesterday's night from a final night, but it sounds either poetic or pretentious. –  Andrew Lazarus Dec 8 '12 at 17:21
    
+1 @AndrewL: Outstanding points. M-W3UDE says that yestereve is archaic. Not even Sherlock Holmes used it. –  user21497 Dec 9 '12 at 0:50
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