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For and Since for Time

We often use for and since when talking about time.

for + period

A period is a duration of time, for example: 5 minutes, 2 weeks, 6 years. For means "from the beginning of the period until the end of the period." For can be used with all tenses.

since + point

A point is a precise moment in time, for example: 9 o'clock, 1st January, Monday. Since means "from a point in the past until now." Since is normally used with perfect tenses.

for
a period
(from start to end)
>===<
since
a point
(up to now)
x===>|
for 20 minutes
for three days
for 6 months
for 4 years
for 2 centuries
for a long time
for ever
etc
since 9am
since Monday
since January
since 1997
since 1500
since I left school
since the beginning of time
etc
all tenses perfect tenses only

For can be used with all tenses. Here are a few examples:

  • They study for two hours every day.
  • They are studying for three hours today.
  • He has lived in Bangkok for a long time.
  • He has been living in Paris for three months.
  • I worked at that bank for five years.
  • Will the universe continue for ever?

For is NOT used with "all day", "all the time" etc.

  • I was there all day. (not *for all day)

Since is normally used with perfect tenses:

  • He has been here since 9am.
  • He has been working since he arrived.
  • I had lived in New York since my childhood.

Since can also be used in the structure "It is [period] since...":

  • It is a year since I saw her.
  • How long is it since you got married?

Now check your understanding »

Both for and since also have other meanings, with no reference to time. Here are some examples:
  • This is for you.
  • Is this the train for London?
  • Since you ask, I'll say yes.
  • Since he didn't study he didn't pass the exam.

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