Writing/speaking in December 2014, if I say "last July", am I referring to July 2013 or July 2014?

If the answer is the former, then how do I refer to the latter? And if the latter, how do I refer to the former?

  • 1
    I think you're the only one who can answer the question of what you are referring to. Perhaps you mean to ask what the listener is most likely to infer?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Dec 19 '14 at 16:11
  • 2
    Also see links in John Lawler's answer to Meaning of “last/this/next Monday”, Dec 19 '14 at 16:37
  • Flip a coin. Usually by December it would mean 2014, in August probably 2013. But there are no rules (that anyone obeys, that is).
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 19 '14 at 17:13
  • Here's the link to the links. Fillmore's work on deixis covers space, time, and social aspects. Dec 19 '14 at 18:47

I think English uses 'last' in a rather sloppy way. In December 2014, I'd definitely say that 'last July' refers to 2014. But if it was only August ... that might imply July of the previous year, since I'd be more likely to say 'last month' for July 2014. So, I think that to be clear, you might say "July this year" or "July last year" - it's only one more syllable.