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I' would like to know whether or not the following sentences are correct and why:

I have been sick since last week.

I have been sick since the last week.

I have been sick for the last week.

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I have been sick since the last week is ungrammatical.

The choice between the other two depends on the context. I have been sick since last week emphasises that you started being sick one week ago and that you are still sick. I have been sick for the last week indicates that your sickness is of at least seven days duration, but it is vaguer about when your sickness started. It could have started a week ago, but it doesn’t exclude the possibility that you were feeling unwell before.

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    "...since the last week" could be grammatical if the context indicates what "the last week" is the last week of. "The show I was leading in took its toll. I have been sick since the last week." – Andrew Leach Jan 16 '14 at 9:22
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    'I have been sick since last week' does not necessarily mean that your sickness started literally seven days ago, as you imply. It is widely accepted in western society that the week starts on Sunday. So if you were speaking on Tuesday and your sickness started on Friday, it would be correct to say that you had been sick since last week. This is not as pedantic a point as you might suppose, when you come from a lifetime of managing office staff! – WS2 Jan 16 '14 at 10:05
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    All of which is why I said, as I often do, depends on the context. – Barrie England Jan 16 '14 at 10:16
  • @WS2, it is more or less widely accepted in Canada, the US, and Mexico that the week starts on Sunday. In the rest of Western society, the week either officially starts on a Monday but is often thought of by people to start on a Sunday (UK especially), or absolutely unambiguously starts on a Monday (rest of EU, non-Commonwealth Asia, etc.). Apart from that, I agree. If today is Monday, and I started being ill on Saturday, I could easily say, “I’ve been ill since last week”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 16 '14 at 11:33
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    I really don't think The Day The Week Begins is particularly relevant to the Q&A, especially since this, last and next week are all ambiguous in every day speech; they often depend on how close/far said week is to today. – Martin F Jan 16 '14 at 19:04
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They're all correct (to a degree), depending on the intended meaning:

"I have been sick since last week." That could mean the sickness began last week. It could even mean that the sickness began after last week, if the word "sick" were emphasized.

"I have been sick since the last week " That is incorrect on its own, but could be correct if, say, " of term." were added, meaning the sickness began in the last week of term and is still ongoing.

"I have been sick for the last week." That suggests an ongoing process. At a stretch, it could even mean that the status, "sick all week", has occurred for the last time and "it won't happen again".

Certainly, to convey a specific meaning, some punctuation, emphasis or reordering would greatly help, especially if being shown out of context.

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  • I got 1 up & 1 down vote. Mind explaining how the answer is not useful? It does agree with Barry's answer. Note, i've even edited it for more clarity. – Martin F Jan 16 '14 at 17:19
  • Since (in its temporal sense) always takes a point in time, never a period of time. So since the last week is possible only in those restricted context in which the last week could be taken as designating a point in time. – Colin Fine Jan 16 '14 at 18:23
  • @ColinFine -- I agree. And my introductory "(to a degree)" and later "incorrect on its own, but could be correct if..." address that very point, don't they? (They were even in my first, unedited answer.) – Martin F Jan 16 '14 at 18:56
  • Sorry, I perhaps put the comment in the wrong place. I was intending to support you, not argue with you. – Colin Fine Jan 16 '14 at 20:12

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