Situating an action in time using for, ago and since

English grammar (See all)

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Situating an action in time using FOR, AGO and SINCE

Ways to express duration and time in English differ from other languages. Translating 'since' or 'for' (+ a time period object) is a classic difficulty for learners of English as a foreign language!
She has been working at Delavigne for 3 years. She began working at Delavigne 3 years ago, and still works there now.

Some languages conjugate the verb in the present tense; the present perfect progressive form is used in English. (or even the preterit)

Two cases to distinguish:
Present Perfect progressive+ for to indicate how long the action lasts
+ since to indicate the moment when the action began


How long have you been living in Paris? or Since when have you been living in Paris?

I have been living in Paris for 3 years.
I have been living in Paris since 2006.

When the action happened in the past, we use the Past Perfect (had instead of have):
Horatio had been working for 3 weeks before he opened his first e-mail.

•  The action is finished:
Preterit+ for to indicate the duration of the action
+ ago to indicate how much time has passed since the action started


Yesterday he played tennis for 2 hours.
How many days ago did he play tennis?
He played tennis 10 days ago.

Let's review:
Since when has Delavigne been making perfumes?
Delavigne has been making perfumes since 1933.
How long has Delavigne been making perfumes?
Delavigne has been making perfumes for seventy-five years.
When did Delavigne start making perfumes?
How many years ago did Delavigne start making perfumes?
Delavigne started seventy-five years ago.





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