Is it acceptable to use back in place of ago ?

example :

They met around three years back

or

They met around three years ago

I saw the former being used in a reputed Indian daily today.

  • In my opinion , the second is certainly the way to go, because i have never seen or heard of, the first usage. But, the first one does not seem all that bad. – Durga Swaroop Nov 5 '15 at 11:45
  • In case of any suspense, the newspaper was the Times of India. – Darshan Chaudhary Nov 5 '15 at 12:49
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Macmillan does not mark this sub-sense of back as informal or colloquial:

back [adverb (5)]: used for talking about a period of time in the past

Back in the ’70s, disco music was very popular.

She had a minor operation a few years back.

Things were different back then.

[bolding mine]

However, people on various other websites {eg massromantic at WordReference} consider 'three years back' less formal than 'three years ago', and I'd agree with them, especially for British usage:

"Yes, I think it ['a few years back'] is slightly more informal. I don't see it written often -- I usually just hear people say it."

  • I agree with you - though it is heavily used in Britain. (Sometimes, from stray comments like this think it will not be understood once they set foot on the ground at Heathrow.) – WS2 Nov 5 '15 at 8:16
  • I totally with you, they're not only more formal but more idiomatic as well, plus I've never heard someone ​saying "years back"+1 – Kyle Nov 5 '15 at 10:19
  • I had to check data, but you appear to be correct if you mean 'more commonly used' by 'more idiomatic'. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 5 '15 at 11:06
  • Definitely agree on British usage - "Back" would be relatively informal, although regularly heard in all usages by middle aged Northerners. I've definitely heard "years back", both in "Years back, when I met your mother". or "They met three years back" contexts – Jon Story Nov 5 '15 at 11:21

protected by tchrist Aug 10 '17 at 11:10

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