For vs. Since

FOR or SINCE?

Look at these two sentences.

  • I have been living in Spain for 6 years.
  • I have been living in Spain since 2012.

Why did we use FOR in the first sentence and SINCE in the second sentence?

For and Since are prepositions.
Let’s look at the difference between these two words.

FOR vs. SINCE timeline with example sentences to show the difference.

Now we are in 2018.
I first arrived in Spain in 2012.
2012 is the starting point.

We use SINCE with the starting point of when something happens and that continues until now.

I continue to live in Spain now so we say:

  • I have been living in Spain SINCE 2012.

Since gives the starting point of actions or events and refers to when things began.

Since + a point in time (in the past)
Since + starting point

Now, what is the period of time between 2012 and 2018?
It is a period of 6 years.
The duration of time I have been in Spain is 6 years.

So I can say…. I have been living in Spain FOR six years.

We use FOR with a duration of time.

So let’s look at the two sentences again…

  • I have been living in Spain for 6 years.

(FOR is used because we are giving the duration of time)

  • I have been living in Spain since 2012.

(SINCE is used because we are giving a starting point of time in the past)

FOR

FOR is used with a period of time.
This is often a number plus a time word.

FOR is used when we measure the DURATION of something or how long it lasts.
It has a start point and an end point and can be used in different tenses.

Here are some example sentences:

  • I studied English in Ireland for two years.
    (This talks about a duration of two years and is in the past tense)
  • I will be there for around two months.
    (This is in the future tense)
  • We have been married for 16 years.
    (This is in the present perfect tense)

SINCE

SINCE is used with a starting point or a time or date.
It refers to something that started in the past and continues until now.
SINCE is mostly used with the present perfect and perfect progressive tense.

Here are some example sentences:

  • He hasn’t eaten since 7 o’clock.
    (My period of not eating started at 7 and continues until right now)
  • I have been working here since June.
  • We have been married since 2002.
    (We got married in 2002 and we continue to be married now 16 years later)

Example sentences using FOR

  • For ten minutes
  • For eight hours
  • For five days
  • For six months
  • For three years
  • For two centuries

Notice how everything after FOR refers to a duration of time.

However, the time period does not need to be exact. For example:

  • I have been a teacher for years.
    (I don’t specify the exact number though it refers to a duration of years)

We could also say For a long time (which is less specific) or more informally, for ages.

Another inexact duration is:

For a while which normally means for a short period of time, not a long period.

Example sentences using SINCE

Now let’s look at some examples using SINCE:

  • Since 8 o’clock
  • Since Monday
  • Since February
  • Since 1982
  • Since I left school
  • Since the end of last century

Notice how everything after SINCE refers to a starting point.

Summary Chart

The difference between FOR and SINCE in English

Lesson tags: Common Mistakes, For, Prepositions, Since, Time
Back to: English Course > Prepositions in English