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.
- Before to Montreal, I lived in Tennessee __________ two years.
- I have been a vegetarian _________ 2008.
- How long has it been ___________ you went to Europe?
- I worked at the movie theatre _____________ for three years.
- My parents visited two months __________.
- I have not slept ___________ yesterday.
- Angelina adopted a child four years _________.
- She has eaten spinach every day __________ last Thursday.
- How long _________ did you buy your car?
- I bought my car seven months __________.
- How long ________ will you be gone?
- I will be gone ___________ one week.
- Before to Montreal, I lived in Tennessee for two years.
- I have been a vegetarian since 2008.
- How long has it been since you went to Europe?
- I worked at the movie theatre for for three years.
- My parents visited two months ago.
- I have not slept since yesterday.
- Angelina adopted a child four years ago.
- She has eaten spinach every day since last Thursday.
- How long ago did you buy your car?
- I bought my car seven months ago.
- Trick question: How long will you be gone?
- 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: