English Grammar Course Unit 19: Present perfect Tense with how long; simple past Tense with when; since and for

Why should you study this unit?

We have been reading about the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous until now. We also read about the usage of for and Since. For is used when we mention the period of time or in other words the duration. Since  is used when we mention the beginning of time as far as that situation or action is concerned. In this chapter you will learn more about the situations when we use for and since.

A. Use the simple past (I did) to ask or say when something happened:

  • A: When did it start raining?
  • B: It started raining at one o’clock / an hour ago.
  • A: When did Mathew and Tina first meet?
  • B: They first met when they were in college / a long time ago.

Use the present perfect (I have done / I have been doing) to ask or say how long something has been happening (up to the present):

  • A: How long has it been raining?
  • B: It’s been raining since one o’clock / for an hour.
  • A: How long have Mathew and Tina known each other?
  • B: They’ve known each other since they were in college / for a long time.

B. Since and for

We use both since and for to say how long something has been happening:

  • I’ve been waiting for you since 8 o’clock.
  • I’ve been waiting for you for two hours.

We use since when we say the beginning of the period (8 o’clock).

We use for when we say the period of time (two hours).

since – 8 o’clock 1977, Monday Christmas, May 12 lunchtime, April we arrived, two hours, ten minutes, three days, six months

for – a week, five years, a long time, ages

  • She’s been working here since April. (= from April until now)

She’s been working here for six months. (not since six months)

  • I haven’t seen Tom since Monday. (= from Monday until now)

I haven’t seen Tom for three days. (not since three days)

We do not use for in expressions with all (all day / all morning / all week / all my life, etc.):

  • I’ve lived here all my life. (not for all my life)

C. Note the structure How long has it been since … ?:

  • A: How long has it been since you had a vacation?
  • B: It’s been (= it has been) two years since I had a vacation. (= I haven’t had a vacation for two years.)
  • It’s been ages since Aunt Mary visited us. (= She hasn’t visited us for ages.)

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