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The tricky points of English grammar

Since and for

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"Since" often causes confusion, because it has two principal meanings: it can imply cause, or duration (time). Here are some examples:
A1    Since he arrived, everything has been different.
A2    Since it was Sunday, I stayed in bed longer.
In A1 since implies duration. In A2 it implies cause:
The meaning of since - whether a conjunction , an adverb or a preposition - is determined by the structures and tenses used.

Four model examples to remember:

  1. Since he bought a new car, he's been much happier
  2. Since he speaks English, he understands the instructions.
  3. I've been here since yesterday, but John's been here for five days.
  4. I came to London in 1990 and I've lived here ever since.

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1.  Since as a conjunction: when the verb of a subordinate clause with since is in a past tense, since normally implies duration (a length of time).
2. Since as a conjunction:  when the verb of a subordinate clause with since is in a present tense, since normally implies cause .
3. Since and for as prepositions
  • Since is used when an event is situated in relation to a moment in time,
  • for when it is in relation to a period of time or duration.
The verb in the main clause is normally in the present-perfect tense.
4. Since as an adverb. Since can stand on its own, often in the expression ever since: in this case it is a an adverb with the meaning "since then".

1. Since implying time:

Since is used either as a conjunction (introducing a clause) or as a preposition (introducing a phrase) , or occasionally as an adverb (standing alone).

1.1.    If a "since" clause implies time, it must contain a verb in a past tense.
B1    We haven't eaten anything since we got here.
B2    We haven't eaten anything since we've been here
B3    I've been feeling sick (ever) since I ate that cake.
B4     He left home last Sunday, and hasn't been seen since.

1.2.    When the main verb in a sentence with a since clause (since you arrived) or a since phrase (since Tuesday) refers to a period of time including the present, a present perfect tense is necessary.
C1    See examples B1 - B3.
C2    I have been here since six o'clock.
C3    Since winning the prize, he's been really happy.

1.3. If the whole  sentence refers to past time, a past perfect tense is required in the main clause. The since clause generally contains a verb in the simple past tense.
D1    We hadn't eaten anything since we arrived.
D2    I'd been feeling sick ever since I ate that cake.
D3    I hadn't eaten anything since six o'clock.

1.4.    Since always implies time if (a) it is a preposition (examples C2, D3) or (b) it is followed by a present participle (example C3).

1.5.    Since or for ?

Since as a preposition can only be used with a moment in time - expressed either as an adverb (e.g. yesterday), an adverb phrase (e.g. the start of term) or a verb of action (e.g. I ate...).
Since as a preposition is never used with a duration. We cannot say: since three hours  Duration is expressed with for.
     E1 - moment in time: . I've been here since last week.
     E2 - duration : I've been here for three hours.
Since as a conjunction can  be used with a duration or with a moment of time;
► if duration is implied, the verb in the since clause is normally in the present perfect.
► If a moment of time is indicated, the verb in the since clause is in the preterite
     E3a. I've felt much better since the window's been open
     E4a. He's lost weight since he's started running every day
     E3b. I've felt much better since I opened the window.
     E4b. He's lost weight since he stopped eating chocolate bars.

Since implying cause :

1.    If a since clause contains a present tense, since must imply cause, not time.
F1    Since it is raining, we are staying indoors.
F2    We will stay indoors since it is raining.
F3    Since he lives in Peru, he doesn't often visit us.

2.    If the verb in the main clause and in the since clause are both in the preterite (simple past ) , since normally implies cause, not time;
G1     I ate all the chocolates since you left them behind.
G2     Since he was poor, he never took taxis.
(To imply time, a present perfect is normally used for the main verb
G11 I've eaten all the chocolates since I got home.

3.    Since, implying cause, is a subordinating conjunction synonymous with as.

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