Grammar-QuizzesAdverbialsPrepositional Phrases › For vs. Since

For vs. Since

Express duration with a quantity of time vs. a specific time

beach
 

For vs. Since

FOR + QUANTITY PHRASE

For expresses that something (activity, action, state) happened with duration. For is followed by a noun phrase with a quantity of time. A prepositional phrase with for commonly occurs with a verb in the present perfect (and other tenses). The activity may be ending or may extend to the future.

For-a quantity of time

PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE 

We have been coming to this beach for five years(ongoing, may extend)

We have been enjoying this paradise for a week.

We have been swimming for three hours.

PRESENT PERFECT 

We have come to this beach for five years(up to now, may end)

We have enjoyed this paradise for a week.

We haven't been here for three years. (quantity)

We haven't been here in¹ years. (period)

PAST

We came to this beach for five years(visits ended)

*We stayed there for five years long²(not used)

PRESENT

We staying here for an hour or two(scheduled time)

FUTURE

We will stay here for an hour or two(intended time)

SINCE + STARTING POINT

Since expresses that something (activity, action, state) happened with duration. Since is followed by a noun phrase (NP) or clause with a specific time, a starting time for the activity. Since commonly occurs with a verb in the present perfect or past perfect. The activity may be ending or may extend.

Since - a past time

PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE

We have been coming to this beach since hearing about it last year (NP)

We have been enjoying this beach since our arrival this morning. (Ger Cls)

We have been swimming since we arrived this morning. (Cls)

PRESENT PERFECT

We have planned our summers here since June 2012. (NP)

*We have planned our summers here since five years ago³.

We haven't checked our messages since last Saturday. (NP)

We haven't been here since last year. (starting point of period)

We haven't been here in¹ a year. (period)

PAST  [NOT USED]

*We came to this beach since June 1.

PRESENT   [NOT USED]

*We are staying here since Tuesday. (the verb is present but the timing is past)

FUTURE   [NOT USED]

*We will stay here since two o'clock(the verb is future but the timing is past)

 

¹for vs. in —For (quantity of time) is similar to in (a period of time); however for can be followed by a more precise time.  We drove to New York in four days. (How long did it take?  It took us four days to drive to New York.)  We drove to New York for four days. (Ambiguous: How long did the drive last?  How long will the New York stay last?)

² five years long – another way to express duration is with long (X time in length); however, it cannot be used with for. Instead use: Their stay was five years long. Their five-year long stay ended suddenly when their visa was revoked. However, we can say They stayed for five long years. (The modifier "long" expresses how the person experienced the years. The years were much too long and, perhaps, challenging.)

³ since five years ago — (1) An expression of duration is not used for a past event. If a past event is relevant to something happening in the present, then the present perfect is used. (2) It sounds very awkward to use "since" and "ago" in this prepositional phrase.  Simpler is better (e.g., for five years  or since 2015).

 

 

 

 

Time Expressions

Quantity vs. Specific

 

 

Expressions for Quantity of Time & Specific Time


A QUANTITY

A quantity of time includes a unit of time: a minute, hour, week, month, etc.  It may also include a modifier such as now or so far, long, short, a few,many, several, these past few, these past several

fifteen minutes

a quarter of an hour

forty eight hours

several hours

two days

a couple of days

a week

seven days now

a month

a month so far

two years

two long years  (long or short)

two summers

two summers ago 
(*Avoid using ago.)

two centuries

these past few years  (last few)               

A SPECIFIC TIME

A specific time is stated as an hour, date, year, century or era. It may also include a modifier such as last, the beginning of, the end of, the middle of. *Informally, since occurs with a quantity of time and ago.

7:45 a.m. (seven forty-five)

a quarter to eight

April 4, 2010

the day before yesterday

June 15

the middle of June

last week 

the end of the week / the weekend

July

last July

2020

the war, the depression (event)

spring, summer, fall, winter

a week ago    *See note.

the beginning of the 21st century

he called  (Since can introduce a clause.)

 

*Ago (Adj) is more commonly used with the past tense.  "We went there a year ago."

 

 

 

 

For

Additional Meanings

 

 

FOR  – Additional Meanings

VARIANT MEANING EXAMPLES

HELP SOMEONE (PP)

I called a taxi for them. Open the door for him. What else can I do for you?

PURPOSE  (PP)

I run for exercise.

INTENDED USE (PP)

This towel is for dishes.  This knife is for cutting bread..

IN REGARDS TO (PP)

Smoking is bad for one's health.

IN FAVOR OF (PP)

I'm for shortening the school year. (in favor of reducing the number of days of attendance)

IN EXCHANGE FOR  (PP)

She works in their home for room and board. (as payment for a room and food)

IN PLACE OF (PP)

Margarine is a substitute for butter.

SUCCESS RATIO (PP)

The batter was two for four. (used to indicate the number of successes out of a specified number of attempts) 

BECAUSE, SEEING (Adv)

He left, for he had no reason to stay. (coordinating conjunction; uncommonly used) 

IN THE DIRECTION OF (PP)

He got on his horse and headed for the border. (occasionally used as an preposition of place or direction)

FOREVER (PP)

He left for good.

BECAUSE (linking Adv)

The dog was scruffy and thin, for he had no home.

[no meaning] (subordinator)

He hates for us to be late.   (For us is the subject of the infinitive clause.)  See Infinitive Cls w/Subj.

 

 

 

 

Since

Additional Meanings

 

 

SINCE  – Additional Meanings 

VARIANT MEANING EXAMPLES

BECAUSE, IN AS MUCH AS (PP)

Since you are here early, you might as well help.  (reason; often used at the beginning of a sentence)

AFTER THAT TIME UNTIL NOW (PP)

He hasn't called since he left.  (adjunct prepositional phrase)

FROM THAT TIME UNTIL NOW (PP)

He has been talking on the phone since he got home.

FROM THAT TIME UNTIL NOW (Adv,P)

We met two years ago and have been roommates ever since.

SUBSEQUENTLY; AFTER (Adv)

At first she didn't want her daughter to marry him, but has since agreed to it. (an unspecific time between past and present)

A LONG TIME AGO (Adv)

I have long since agreed to his independence 
 

Grammatical Functions and Categories: N – noun / pronoun; NP – noun phrase; V – verb; VP – verb phrase; Adv – adverb; PP – prepositional phrase

Also see Prep Uses–Adjuncts.

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

We've been swimming there since ten years ago.  

(Not incorrect but awkward and wordy.)

 

 

I have been working as an assistant for the summertime.

SOLUTION

We have been swimming there for ten years. Simplify by using for before a quantity of time and delete ago.

We have been swimming there since 1998.  Simplify by using since before a specific time and delete ago.

A phrase with [quantity of time + ago] qualifies as a specific time in the past; however, it is not in common usage by native speakers because it is wordy.   

I have been working as an assistant this summer. (unspecific period within the season)
I have been working as an assistant all summer. (from beginning to end of the season)
I have been working as an assistant for two summers.  (consecutively; one after the other)
I work as an assistant during the summertime. (routine)

 

Solution - lightbulb Pop-Q "Since"

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Tourism in the Beach Resorts

Beach visitor
 

 

Stating experience with for and since.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-10" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Daniel's Whereabouts

 

 

Read for Errors

We haven't seen Daniel for many, many years. He was a child when we last saw him. In fact, we haven't seen him since five years ago.  His family moved to Arizona for while his father was working there.

They have been there since the time when his father started the new job. We're really glad to see him again, and we hope he'll stay for a while.

 

 

 

Correct or Incorrect?

  1. Select a response correct or incorrect.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 11-20" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

11.
We haven't see Daniel for many, many years. He was a child when we last saw him.

     

12.
In fact, we haven't seen him since five years ago.

       

13.
His family moved to Arizona for while his father was working there.

     

14.
They have been there since the time when his father started the new job.

     

15.
We're really glad to see him again, and we hope he'll stay for a while.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Leaving Home

Fish butcher
 

 

Expressions with for and since.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 16-22" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.
I don't want to live there.

22.