As mentioned in this week’s Tip of the Week, we’ll be going over a couple words that can cause confusion for English learners- ‘for’ and ‘since.’ Let’s start with a basic difference by defining each word:

~We use ‘for’ to talk about a period of time. So when you think of time phrases like “ten minutes” or “three months” or “a long time,” the necessary choice is ‘for.’ For example: “I’ve been studying English for five years.”

~We use ‘since’ to specify when a period of time began. This is the typical example of time phrases like “since January” or “since I was a child.” For example: “I’ve been studying English since 2010.” ‘Since’ indicates a specific point in the past, and we are referring to a period of time that commenced at that point.

A very common mistake begins to creep in when dealing with ‘ago’ phrases. Many students will use them in ‘since’ sentences. This is a mistake. Let’s take a look at one example:

~I’ve studied English since three months ago.

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In this case, we need to simply specify the month. If this month is December, and you started studying English three months ago, then we must say:

~I’ve studied English since September.

It’s also worth noting that you can communicate the same idea in different ways:

~I started studying English three months ago.

~I’ve been studying English for three months.

To reiterate, if you want to use a ‘since’ sentence, then specify the point at which the period of time began; don’t use an ‘ago’ phrase.

As a final clarification to cap off the blog entry for this week, we’re going to solve a certain prepositional problem (pesky prepositions!) once and for all: for days of the week, we use ‘on,’ and for months of the year, we use ‘in.’ For example:

~We started this exercise on Monday.

~We started working here in February.

A. Edstrom

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