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Linguapress English Grammar

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Tricky points of English ...

Explaining some of the everyday words in English, that are easy to confuse

Since and for

 Since and for implying duration or cause

 "Since" often causes confusion, because it has two principal meanings: it can imply duration (time), or cause. 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. Duration - Since he won the lottery, he's become very lazy.
       or Since winning the lottery, he's become very lazy.
  2. Cause - Since he won the lottery, he's now a millionnaire.
  3. Duration - I've been here since yesterday, but John's been here for five days.
  4. Duration - I came to London in 1990 and I've lived here ever since.
Explanations of these examples

Since as a conjunction:

Model 1.  Since normally implies duration (a length of time) when the verb of the since clause is in a past tense and the verb of the main clause is also in the past. Since always implies duration if the verb in the since clause is a present participle..
Model 2.  Since always implies  cause  when the verb of the since clause is in a present tense.

Since and for as prepositions

Model 3. Since is used to situate an event in relation to a moment in time (yesterday), but for is used to relate the event to a period of time or duration (five days). The verb in the main clause is normally in the present-perfect tense.

Since as an adverb.

Model 4  Since  stands on its own, as in this common expression ever since: in this case it is a an adverb with the meaning "since then". Since as an adverb can never imply cause.

1. Since implying time or duration :

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 Tuesday.
C3    Since you arrived, he's been really happy.

1.3. If the whole  sentence refers to past time, the main clause.will contain a verb in the past perfect tense. The since clause generally contains a verb in the simple past tense (preterite).
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 (as in. since going home).

1.5.    Since or for ?

Since as a preposition can only be used to express duration as from 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 period of time. We cannot say: since three hours  Duration over a period of time is expressed with for.
     E1 - moment in time: . I've been here since last week.
     E2 - duration : I've been here for three hours.
However since as a conjunction can  be used with either a period of time or with a moment of time;
     E3. I've felt much better since the window's been open
     E4. He's lost weight since he's started running every day
     E5. I've felt much better since I opened the window.
     E6. He's lost weight since he stopped eating chocolate bars.

Since implying cause :

1.    Since  must imply cause, not time, when a since clause contains a present tense,
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.   Since normally implies cause when the verb in the main clause and in the since clause are both in the preterite (simple past ) ,
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 would normally be 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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