If someone referred to "last August" in a conversation that took place in December 2015, would the speaker be referring to August 2014 or August 2015?

Example sentence: "I saw you last August".

Further, how would the date of the conversation affect the meaning of "last August"?

That is, would the year referenced change if the conversation took place in

  1. September 2015?
  2. January 2016?
  3. July 2016?
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    Last August simply refers to the most recent past occurrence of that calendar month. As used within the month of August itself, it would mean the August of the year before; in September the expression is unlikely to be used, yielding to last month. – Brian Donovan Dec 19 '15 at 17:29
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    @BrianDonovan does not the preference of using "in August" or "this August" over "last August" in these situations tend that "last August" would instead refer to the August before the one just passed? – Harry Dec 19 '15 at 17:36
  • No, that would just cause massive confusion. If you're not talking about the most recent August, you need to make that clear. E.g. "In August last year" (if it's still 2015), "in August 2014" etc. – ralph.m Dec 19 '15 at 21:18

There is no definitive answer. This is one area where English is incorrigibly ambiguous. It certainly varies from person to person, and I suspect that it may vary with context even in one person's speech.

  • Yeah, I would say that "last August" is likely to refer to August 2014 if used in October 2015, but August 2015 if used in December 2015. Whatever "precision" is possible must be gleaned from context. – Hot Licks Dec 19 '15 at 19:36

To me this always refer to August of last year. Because if it's August of same calendar year you should simply say I saw you in August. The last part is not needed.

Also if you think it refers to August of this year, think again, then "this August" and "last August" are the same thing? Same goes for week, this Wednesday is the same as last Wednesday? I think not.

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