0

So I just learned that "yesterdays" is a word (without the apostrophe). It is the plural of "yesterday".

The trouble is, what does plural of "yesterday" really mean? I could not find any example sentences in the dictionaries. Does it mean multiple instances of the previous day (which I'm having a hard time understanding as a real life thing), or does it mean a range of past days (not just yesterday, but two days ago and three, or more)? Does it have both meanings like so many other words?

Here's the example paragraph I found myself writing and questioning (I dumbed it down for brevity):

The evil army invaded City A only to find it abandoned, but they nonetheless imported their weapons and material as a base for the next move. In a similar vein, City B had been evacuated yesterdays and imported today.

What I want it to mean is "a range of past days, starting at least two days ago and ending no later than yesterday-proper." That is, the city was not evacuated in one day (impossibly too brief for a large city), but rather over multiple days in the past (before the army arrived).

Am I using the word validly?

5

No, you can't use it literally as a plural.

But you can use it literarily. For instance: "All the happy yesterdays of my youth have fled like so many dandelion seeds in the wind." This would be taken to mean bygone days.

Or you could say "all our yesterdays", referring to each person's individual yesterday (again, this would be figurative—my yesterday was the same period as yours, but we experienced it differently.)

For your example, it would make sense to use "in the {preceding/prior} [few] days..."

| improve this answer | |
  • Good answer. Yes it is used idiomatically but not in the literal way that the OP has proposed. You may not be old enough to remember the 1960s TV series on the second world war All Our Yesterdays. – WS2 Sep 7 '15 at 9:24
1

"Yesterdays" means more than one of those days that has past. The best example I can give is actually about "tommorrows" from the song "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster:

But I'd trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday

The singer values his (or her, if the singer is Janis Joplin) future to relive one day in the past, but you can transpose this for someone who would trade all their past experience for one more day of life:

But I'd trade all of my yesterdays for one single tomorrow.

It doesn't scan, but you get the point.

But you can't use the plural the way you want:

City B had been evacuated yesterdays and imported today

will have to become something like

The Evil Army took over City B today, only to find that the city had been evacuated over the previous three days.

And "imported" is the wrong word.

| improve this answer | |
  • Invaded, perhaps? – Andrew Leach Sep 7 '15 at 8:52
  • But City B can be imported by weapons and material? Or am I being too liberal there? – DrZ214 Sep 7 '15 at 8:54
  • The army might import the weapons, the city wouldn't be imported 'by' the weapons. The weapons are what has been imported (by the army). – JHCL Sep 7 '15 at 10:10
  • (It's still not a great word to use here though. Maybe 'The Evil Army entered City A only to find it abandoned. They brought in weapons and material and set up a base for their next move. Likewise, City B was occupied today, having been hurriedly evacuated.' As you say, no-one would expect a city to be emptied overnight, so unless the time scale is crucial, further detail isn't really necessary. It will be read as 'over a few days'). – JHCL Sep 7 '15 at 10:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.