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In the last 3 months vs in the past 3 months

Whats the difference betweenin thelast3 monthsandin thepast3 monthsif there is any?

A lot of people now accept thatlastandpastcan be used interchangeably in certain contexts:

However, traditional grammarians claim you should never uselastwhen you meanpastsincelastis final as opposed to just gone by.

Old-schoolers would say that unless you are dying, you probably have more months ahead of you. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to say, These past few months have been difficult.

The bottom line: These days it doesnt matter if you uselastorpast, but if you wanted to be hardcore about it, you could use the more appropriate choice based on context.

When the verb used takes us up to the present moment, as have been in your example does,

clearly mean the same thing. But in a situation where the time in question is not clearas in During the Yankees last/past year of dominance, Derek Jeter was a key figurethey do (or at least may) not. In that case I would use

if I meant some earlier year (say 2009, when the Yankees last won a World Series).

It did create confusion. My friend told me that last payment cycle was an exception when he really meant past payment cycle. last could mean some date in future but past would refer only to past date.

I would say that there is no distinction. If one wanted to say 1 August—1 October, one could say the last three calendar months or the past three calendar months, I suppose.

It can be argued that in thelast3 months would be intuitively understood as the time frame from 8/13/2010 to 10/12/2010, while in thepastthree months would mean July, August, and September. Some (see comments) see it exactly the other way around. Therefore there seems to be no difference between the two, but if you want to be precise, you need to add something like

I would take the meanings in the opposite way. The past 3 months is the past three months time period, whereas the last 3 months would be the last three calendar months, unless this month is nearly over. However at first glance Id treat these as synonyms.

Looks to me, based on these responses, that the difference between these constructions is just unclear.

in the last 3 months – I guess this term should be used with past simple. The time period is already gone. E.g. now is february and if I say in the last 3 months, I mean in november, december and january.

The term in the past 3 months shows the period which is not finished yet. So there should be used the present perfect.

In the last three months, Ive eaten thirty Mars bars. In the past three months, Ive eaten thirty Mars bars. Both are valid and exactly equivalent.

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