I'm looking for a word like "sometime ago", "a while ago", that is good for describing a 1-2 years span of time.

I feel like しばらく前 is for shorter spans of time, and is for longer ones. Is there something in the middle I could use here?

I wanna say something like:

I worked for that company sometime ago

Without being literal about how much time it has been since I've worked there


  • 2
    Did you consider 以前? – Ringil Feb 25 '19 at 17:17
  • @Ringil No, not at all. Actually, I believe that's the first time i'm reading this word. – Felipe Oliveira Feb 25 '19 at 17:21
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    以前 is a great word for this situation! – ajsmart Feb 25 '19 at 17:25
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    Have you eliminated 近年? – BJCUAI Feb 25 '19 at 21:50
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    「[前]{まえ}にその会社で働いてました」とか・・ (1~2年なら「しばらく前に、その会社で働いてました」でもいいと思うけど) – Chocolate Feb 26 '19 at 2:12

以前{いぜん} might be what you're looking for. From デジタル大辞泉

2 今より前の時点。現在から見て近い過去。副詞的にも用いる。「―と違って今では」「―会ったことがある」

Note that some other dictionaries like 大辞林 and 明鏡 think the referred to time is relatively far in the past: 今よりもだいぶ前 for the former and 現在より(かなり)前 for the latter. But I think this word fulfills your requirement for the vagueness of the time pretty well.

Using your example you might say:


I think it'd be fairly close to something like I used to work for that company in English.


I think「数年前{すうねんまえ}」is a versatile option.

数年前その会社で働いてたよ」- (colloquial)

数年前だけど、その会社で働いたことあるよ」- (informal)

数年前のことですが、その会社に勤めたことがあります」- (formal-polite)

  • That’s true, it’s like “a few years ago”... I wonder if people use it naturally in that context though, despite being the most logic one from a western standpoint. I’ve seen it used in things like 数メートル先も – Felipe Oliveira Feb 26 '19 at 3:28

So in my experience, if we want to describe a couple years without being specific, we would use the following:


This seems to be what you are trying to describe, and I am sure that there are other ways to do it, but keeping it simple in this case is probably for the best.

Using the example phrase you provided, I would say the following:


EDIT: On further though of this answer, I thought that I should make some additional appendages.

何年か is not specific to the number of years, but it is typically implied to be more than 1, maybe 2 years, as the translation could reasonably be a few years ago.

If you're looking for something more specific, you could say 1,2年前, but that is probably more specific than what you are looking for.

If you're specifically trying to be non specific about when it was that you worked there, you can also just say: 前、その会社...

As has been stated in the other answer, 以前 can also work.

  • I see, thanks a lot for the answer! I know this may probably be a different question, but why did you choose 働いていました over 働きました? Is it simply Was working vs worked? Or do you feel there is something else there that makes it more natural? – Felipe Oliveira Feb 25 '19 at 15:36
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    They are both grammatically correct. I see the working as an ongoing past-tense action, so using the ている form felt more natural to me. It might be wise to consider asking this in a separate question though, just to see what others think. jlptsensei.com/learn-japanese-grammar/… – ajsmart Feb 25 '19 at 15:51
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    Admittedly, my instincts have been known to be wrong before, but I think it also feels more natural. – ajsmart Feb 25 '19 at 15:53
  • Ok, I’ll try to read a bit about it and if I’m still not sure about it, I might ask another question, thanks a lot!! – Felipe Oliveira Feb 25 '19 at 15:57
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    Here's another answer I wrote about the construct. japanese.stackexchange.com/a/51701/22352 – ajsmart Feb 25 '19 at 16:11

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