Using Since, Ago, and For: for ESL Learners


You might have noticed in yesterday’s post, that I used many expressions of time. The most common ways to speak about time are since, ago, and for. This is a beginner grammar point, which is often learned with the past tense, but even advanced speakers make mistakes with this from time to time.

Let’s take a look back to see how I used these expressions yesterday:

  • One week ago, Jordan and I took a mini-vacation with a friend to visit the Adirondacks in New York state.
  • I was very happy to go, because it had been two months since I left Montreal!
  • We had to wait at the border for over an hour.
  • We hiked on the trail for about four hours
  • My legs were a little tired, because it had been over six months since I had hiked more than six miles!


Ago is used with the simple past tense and a specific point in the past. Ago lets us say when an event happened. Except when used in a question, the amount of time that separates the event in the past with now must be given.

  • How long ago did you move to Montreal? (How long before now did you move to Montreal?)
  • I moved to Montreal seven months ago. (I moved to Montreal seven month before now.)


Since is used differently. Since refers to when a period of time started, or a starting point. The situation continued for a specified period of time. Since is often used with the present perfect or the past perfect. You will hear people use ago and since together (even native speakers!), but I recommend you avoid using them together.

  • How long has it been since they went hiking? (present perfect)
  • It has been more than six months since they have been hiking!
  • How long had it been since you went on vacation? (past perfect)
  • I had been two years since I had gone on vacation!


For expresses something that happened throughout a specific period, or amount, of time. Unlike French, we can use this in the past or the future. For is often used with the present perfect or the simple past, but can be used with other tenses as well. For is not used in questions often. Instead, to ask for what period of time something happened or will happen, it is usually easier to simply use how long.

  • Were you at the border for a long time?
  • Yes, we waited at the border for an hour.
  • We will be traveling for three weeks.
  • I have lived in Montreal for seven months.

Practice Exercise

  1. Before to Montreal, I lived in Tennessee __________ two years.
  2. I have been a vegetarian _________ 2008.
  3. How long has it been ___________ you went to Europe?
  4. I worked at the movie theatre _____________ for three years.
  5. My parents visited two months __________.
  6. I have not slept ___________ yesterday.
  7. Angelina adopted a child four years _________.
  8. She has eaten spinach every day __________ last Thursday.
  9. How long _________ did you buy your car?
  10. I bought my car seven months __________.
  11. How long ________ will you be gone?
  12. I will be gone ___________ one week.


  1. Before to Montreal, I lived in Tennessee for two years.
  2. I have been a vegetarian since 2008.
  3. How long has it been since you went to Europe?
  4. I worked at the movie theatre for for three years.
  5. My parents visited two months ago.
  6. I have not slept since yesterday.
  7. Angelina adopted a child four years ago.
  8. She has eaten spinach every day since last Thursday.
  9. How long ago did you buy your car?
  10. I bought my car seven months ago.
  11. Trick question: How long will you be gone?
  12. I will be gone for one week.

How did it go? Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. If you’re still looking for more practice, try a few of the links below:

Happy practicing!

A Lake Truly Placid: A Spring Trip to the Adirondacks

adirondacks trip

Time flies so quickly. It seems like we just returned and unpacked the bags from our trip to Lake Placid. But somehow it still feels as though it was a month ago.  One of Jordan’s colleagues mentioned something to him about hiking, maybe heading to upstate New York, and then my mind ran wild. I could smell the mountain pine air from here.  We borrowed the van (of yet another of Jordan’s colleagues) and headed to Lake Placid. We knew it was going to be cold but our sleeping bags are good down to 32 degrees, we could sleep in the van if necessary, and we had just survived a Montreal winter with nearly two heat-less weeks. No sweat  chill. I also read the few online feeds about how there was basically “no reason” to go to the Adirondacks in the spring, or April, in particular. It’s “mud season,” as the locals call it, and so the trails would be no good, things would not be open, and you should really just wait until mid-May. But you know me. If I’m already smelled the pine and visualized hiking, I want to go. Warnings: not heeded.

lake placid trip

lake placid trip

Technically, no campgrounds were open. It was too early in the season. And so an RV park was our only option. And even they hadn’t prepared any tent sites, utilities, amenities, etc. No showers. No pit toilets. No fill-in-the-blank. And so then our only option was to find a place we could park. But it worked. We cooked inside the van and even managed to try a local brew-pop with our suppers.

lake placid trip

Night fell early. Cards were put away. Low-tech reading was done by headlamp, hi-tech reading by backlit iPad. It was freezing, literally and figuratively. While I wore three layers of synthetic fibers in my sleeping bag within the van, a decent natural layer of snow accumulated on the ground around us. I could barely sleep. We all woke up on a regular basis. I insist it was the coldest night of my life. I was so looking forward to finding a place to wash my face with warm water before heading out for our hike. What kinds of places open the earliest? Coffee shops.

The day before, we had wandered around the small city of Lake Placid in search of coffee/wi-fi. There was, of course, the omnipresent Starbucks, but thankfully we didn’t stop. Starbucks is okay if that’s your thing, but if you’re really into your coffee, I implore you to keep driving down Main Street passed the usual places, turn onto Saranac Avenue, and stop when you see the quirky New Leaf Coffee House. It’s cute. It’s definitely unique. It’s organic. And it was one of the better lattés I’ve had in quite a while (that’s coming from an indie coffee-seeking girl in Montreal!).

lake placid trip

lake placid trip

lake placid trip coffee shop

Aside from this joint, we didn’t try out any of the culinary offerings of Lake Placid (unless you’re willing to count our trip to the supermarket for trail food). But that’s okay. Most people don’t visit the Adirondacks for the gastronomic scene. Sure, I would love to come back and try out a few of the other cute places in “downtown” Lake Placid sometime. I could spend an afternoon browsing the antique shop, the book store, and the outdoor gear store. But not this time. We went for lakes, the trails. We went to escape civilization for a few hours. So we wasted little time this day. Off to the trails.

adirondacks trip

adirondacks trip treadway mt

I say this “mud season” business is simply a way to give the locals a month or so for the locals to explore the trails without worrying about the tourists between the winter season and the summer season. The city and the surrounding area seemed so extremely placid without throngs of other tourists.

Treadway Moutain trail recap coming your way soon.


A Weekend Trip to the Adirondacks


Hello, everyone! I hope you had a great weekend/week. Sorry for the late post(s)! We’ve been having some internet problems.

One week ago, Jordan and I took a mini-vacation with a friend to visit the Adirondacks in New York state. I was very happy to go, because it had been two months since I left Montreal!

vw van

“The Adirondacks” is a region is in northern New York. The drive from Montreal is only about three hours (excluding any time waiting at the border). We had to wait at the border for over an hour. This drive is a little long for a day trip,* but perfect for a weekend trip.

The Adirondack region is known for its natural beauty, mountains, and large lakes. There are many hikes* and outdoor activities to choose from. The region has hosted* the Winter Olympics two times–in 1932 and in 1980, and it is quite touristy. However, there are fewer tourists this time of year than during the summer or fall. Most of the campgrounds are still closed, and the hiking trails* were still quite empty. The campgrounds* will open in May.

We borrowed a friend’s VW van and planned to camp. With the frigid* temperatures, we decided to sleep in the van. Saturday night was so cold that we had trouble sleeping. I think we need warmer sleeping bags!  The next day, we woke up early, ate breakfast, and drove to the Treadway Mountain trailhead.*

treadway mountain adirondacks

Our hike was 8.1 miles and full of beautiful scenery. We hiked on the trail for about four hours and took time to take pictures and each our lunches at the top. My legs were a little tired, because it had been over six months since I had hiked more than six miles!

For anyone interested, I will be posting a recap* with many photos on the website’s homepage in the next couple days. Tomorrow, I will be posting a grammar lesson related to today’s post. See you then!

Does anyone know any hike in Quebec or the areas around Quebec that we should visit?



  • trip (noun): a journey, a voyage, usually for pleasure
  • hike (noun/verb): a long walk, usually in the country or wilderness/to take a long walk, usually in the wilderness
  • host (verb): receive a group of people or an event
  • trail (noun): the path or track, often used on a hike
  • campground (noun): a group of camp sites, or a place where one can camp
  • frigid (adjective): very cold
  • trailhead (noun): the place or spot where a trail begins
  • recap: a summary or re-telling of a story

April Showers in Montreal

sculpture in rain

This week, we’ve seen only rain–absolutely no snow. The sculpture above is of two somber children looked especially touching in the rain. She looks like she’s truly crying, right?

A week ago today, we were covered in snow like so many of you in the Midwest of the States.


sculpture with snow

But this week, the sun has been out. Sidewalk vendors are popping up, and fresh flowers are adorning and perfuming the street corners. Oh, winter, I was so over you.

street flowers

Spring in Your Step

Spring in Your Step

If someone walks “with spring in his/her step,” it means that they walk with a little extra bounce than normal. Usually, this implies happiness or joy, which can be seen while someone is walking. “Spring” in this case is not normally associated with season of spring. Instead, spring in this case is related to a small, bouncy, spiraled piece of wire that returns back to its original shape after being pushed down. (My feet in the self-portrait above!)

This week, the “spring” in my step is truly the season of spring. I’m so thankful for the warm weather we’ve been seeing in Montreal. It’s supposed to reach 22 degrees today (70 degrees F)!

22 degrees definitely puts some spring in my step!

Spring and Cherry Blossoms in Washington, DC (ESL Reading Comprehension)

cherry blossoms

In Washington, D.C., spring means cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms are the flowers which bloom, or open, on the branches of cherry trees. There is a large festival with a parade to celebrate spring and the time when the trees blossom. When I lived in D.C., this was my favorite time of year there. Although the festival ended last Sunday, April 14th, I still thought it would be nice to focus on the festival for today’s reading comprehension activity.

Cherry blossoms with a view of the Jefferson Memorial
Cherry blossoms with a view of the Jefferson Memorial

Today’s excerpt (small piece of text) comes from the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s website and talks about the history of the festival. To read the whole story or to find out more details, click on the link. Vocabulary words that might be new are explained below, and questions and answers are found at the end.

Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates* the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual* celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries.

It took the coordination* of many to ensure the arrival of the cherry trees.  A first batch* of 2,000 trees arrived diseased in 1910, but did not deter *the parties.  Between the governments of the two countries, coordination by Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a world-famous chemist and the founder of Sankyo Co., Ltd. (today know as Daiichi Sankyo), Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Eliza Scidmore, first female board member of the National Geographic Society, and First Lady Helen Herron Taft, more than 3,000 trees arrived in Washington in 1912. In a simple ceremony on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank* of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.

Today’s National Cherry Blossom Festival has grown from modest* beginnings into the nation’s greatest springtime celebration. A group of American school children reenacted the initial planting and other activities, effectively holding the first “festival” in 1927…Over the years, millions have participated in Festival events and viewed the flowering cherry trees.  In 2012, the Festival expanded* to five weeks (from 16 days in recent previous years) to provide a grand tribute* to the 100-year anniversary of the gift of trees.  Today, more than 1.5 million people visit Washington, DC each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and participate in diverse programming that heralds* spring in the nation’s capital.


  •  commemorate: celebrate, honor
  • annual: yearly, each year
  • coordination: team work to reach or obtain desired product
  • batch: a quantity or number produced at one time, a group
  • deter: stop
  • bank: the side of a river or body of water
  • modest: humble, simple
  • tribute: a gift that shows respect
  • herald: to announce

Comprehension Questions

  1. Why does Washington, D.C. has so many cherry  trees?
  2. Where there any problems with the arrival of the trees?
  3. Who held the first Cherry Blossom festival? When was it held?
  4. How has the festival changed since that time?


  1. The mayor of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C. in 1912 as a gift.
  2. Yes, the first group of trees were sent in 1910 and had diseases, so did not survive.
  3. School children held the first festival by recreating the original planting. This event happened in 1927.
  4. Since the first festival, the festival has become much longer (five weeks instead of 16 days), and much larger. Over 1 million people attend each year.

Any questions? Who wants to join me for a trip next year 🙂

Carly Simon sings a classic spring-themed song (ESL Listening Comprehension)

Good morning everyone. I am posting about spring all week, but I know that many people in the U.S. still feel like it’s winter. In fact, there is another winter storm that is going to hit this weekend. Because of this, I thought Ella Fitzgerald’s song, “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” seemed appropriate. Have a listen to the song, which is sung by Carly Simon. While listening, try to determine:

  1. The number of times she uses the future simple tense (will)
  2. What month of the year she mentions
  3. What thing can heal all problems (she mentions it twice)
  4. Decide is she is talking about the actually season of spring. If not, what does she mean?

If you’re still not sure about your answers, listen again with the lyrics below. Answers are shown below the lyrics.


Spring will be a little late this year
A little late arriving in my lonely world over here
For you have left me and where is our April of old?
You have left me and winter continues cold
As if to say spring will be a little slow to start
A little slow reviving that music it made in my heart
Yes, time heals all things so I needn’t cling to this fear
It’s merely that spring will be a little late this year
Spring will be a little late this year
A little slow reviving that music it made in my heart
Yes, time heals all things so I needn’t cling to this fear
It’s merely that spring will be a little late, a little late this year


  1. Will is used five times.
  2. The song mentions the month of April.
  3. Time heals all things.
  4. No, spring is a metaphor (or a symbol) for healing from a past relationship.