Today a friend whose English is not yet idiomatic asked if the expression “my ex-teacher” was the way to say that in English. There was a little confusion as she went through several expressions, and I wish I could reconstruct the sequence b/c it might tell me something about the process by which I came to OK the choice “my past teacher”.
After I got home, suddenly, out of the blue, it hit me that it’s “my former teacher”. I e-mailed that to her but it got me to thinking about how so many people give you wrong information about their native language. You would think that, given a moment to go back into their native language, they could come up with a good equivalent, or at least not come up with nonsense. Yet here I had come up with something I doubt any native speaker would say. My past lives, my past experiences, my past mistakes…… but not my past teacher, nor my former mistakes or former experperiences. Former lives would work. What’s going on here?