Is yesterday just the past tense form of now? Or are they different lexemes entirely?

  • 1
    Your hypothesis really makes me want to ask the question "what do you think today is then?".
    – LjL
    Feb 14, 2018 at 16:07
  • I was inclined to parallel today and yesterday. Although, still consider them different lexemes as nouns do not inflect for tense. Someone in my class was arguing the above hypothesis and I figured the best way to back up my counterargument was with the help of people who knew much more than me!
    – Eloisa
    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:25

2 Answers 2


In English, only verbs have a past tense but the other parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, ...) don't have one. The fact that you can express a notion of past-ness for some of them (e.g., former president or ex-wife) does not form a past tense.

Also now and yesterday aren't derivations from a common stem. While using common stems (or recognisably related stems) is not strictly necessary for a past tense (think of the past tense of the verb to be) it helps to have some morphological rules for forming a lot of past tense forms.

Together with the semantic arguments formulated by @curiousdannii there is no reason to think of now and yesterday as one lexeme.

  1. Now can be analysed as a pro-preposition, a word standing in for a prepositional phrase. It isn't verbal, so the category of tense doesn't apply to it.

  2. Now and yesterday are not parallel terms. Yesterday can refer to a whole day, but now doesn't even refer to a moment just before now. There's no reason to think that they're the same lexeme.

  • 1
    Yesterday doesn't refer to even a moment before yesterday. Feb 16, 2018 at 9:48
  • Perhaps you mean that now doesn't refer to a day. It could be conceived of as an instant or an eon. (Having said that, yesterday doesn't always refer to a day either.) Feb 16, 2018 at 9:51
  • Right. I meant that yesterday refers to a time within a one day period, as does today, but not now.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 16, 2018 at 11:37

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