- Five new projects have been opened in the past years.
- Five new projects have been opened in the past year.
What is the deference in meaning between the above two sentences?
If it’s now June 2011 then “in the past year” means over the period June 2010 to June 2011.
“in the past years” means over an unspecified number of years leading up to the present time. The implication is usually of a relatively small number of years – e.g., 5 or 10, say, rather than 200.
“in past years” (no “the”) tends to suggest events further back in time, and not necessarily in the years leading up to the present time.