Duration Of Time In Spanish

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For talking about the number of days, weeks, etc.

The most frequently used construction in everyday Spanish uses the regular verb llevar. Note that Spanish uses the Present or the Imperfect tense where English uses the Perfect or Pluperfect tenses:

  • Llevo seis años estudiando español. I have been studying Spanish for six years.
  • Llevaba seis años estudiando español. I had been studying Spanish for six years.
  • Lleva años aquí. He/she's been here for years.
  • Llevas varios días enfadado. You've been angry for several days.
  • Llevábamos tres horas esperando. We had been waiting for three hours.

Use of tener, e.g. tengo seis años aquí I’ve been here six years, is common in Latin America, but not in Spain.

The following constructions with hacer are more formal:

  • Estudio español desde hace seis años. I have been studying Spanish for six years.

or:

  • Hace seis años que estudio español. I have been studying Spanish for six years.
  • Yo estudiaba español desde hacía seis años. I had been studying Spanish for six years.
  • Hacía seis años que yo estudiaba español. I had been studying Spanish for six years.

English-speakers are easily misled into thinking that a sentence like he estado tres meses en Nueva York I was in New York for three months means the same as llevo tres meses en Nueva York I’ve been in New York for three months. The former implies that the speaker has now left the city, whereas the latter dearly indicates that his/her stay is still continuing.

When the period of time is clearly finished, durante may be used:

  • La estuvo mirando durante tres minutos. He gazed at her for three minutes.
  • Victoria reinó durante casi cuarenta años. Victoria reigned for nearly forty years.

In some cases no preposition is used:

  • Estuve tres días en Barcelona. I was in Barcelona (for) three days.

How to Say Ago In Spanish

The usual construction uses hacer:

La vi hace tres días. / Hace tres días que la vi. I saw her three days ago.

How to Say Since in Spanish

The use of the Present and Imperfect tenses should be noted:

  • Vivo aquí desde abril. I've been living here since April.
  • Mi madre vive con mi tía desde que murió mi padre. My mother’s been living with my aunt since my father died.
  • Vivíamos allí desde el año anterior. We had been living there since the year before.

Spaniards may use the Perfect and Pluperfect tenses in these sentences, but the Present or Imperfect are usually required by Latin-Americans. If the sentence is negated, the Perfect tense is used, or the Preterit in those regions (much of Latin America) where the Perfect is little used:

No la he visto. / No la vl desde el domingo. I haven’t seen her since Sunday.

How To Say The first time that..., etc. in Spanish

Use of the Spanish Present and Imperfect tenses should be noted in these sentences:

  • Es la primera vez que oigo mencionar su nombre. It is the first time I have heard his name mentioned.
  • Era la primera vez que entraban en ese edificio. It was the first time they had entered that building.

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