Difference between 先 and 去

I understand that they both mean past, is it simply that there are two kanji with the same meaning?

They seem to be used the same way in 先週 and 去年. is there any reason why one uses one and the other doesn’t?



A lot of kanji have the same meanings. I’m guessing it’s one of these cases.


in english, we say “yesterday”, but we don’t really say “yesterweek”, “yestermonth”, or “yesteryear”. we also say “last week”, “last month”, “last year”, but we don’t say “last day”, that’d be weird, wouldn’t it? is there a reason? i dunno. same thing here, you know?


Also, 先 can mean ahead, so in that sense they’re also opposites.

Like if you say この先 that would refer to the future whereas 過去 means past.


It isn’t. They have many non-interchangable uses. Such as 先 used when talking about someone ahead of you in a line, or even words like 指先.

先 can mean before or previous, but that’s not the exact same “past” in the way as 去 means. It can even be used to talk about the future. An example from Weblio is:


Translated as “think of the future.”

Which fits in with its “ahead” meaning if you think of a events on a timeline.

I suggest looking at the Weblio sentences to get a better feel on how 先 is used.


Just gleaning from the context of how I’ve seen it appear, it looks like [去] is past but it means more like “just before” so its used for yesterday or last year.

But [先] would be more for “previous” or “before” so its more like the other day, or one of the years in the past.

It might not be right though, since I only just learned it haha. I just feel like thats what I keep getting wrong in the vocab.

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