Grammar: Describing Time



“For” is used in time expressions to talk about the duration of an action. “I have worked in this company for 11 years”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have information on the exact amount of time that an action has taken: “Sasha Grey has been a leading figure in her field for quite some time now”. Something that is worth noting about “For” in this usage is that it generally occurs in perfect tenses: present perfect (I have done), present perfect progressive (I have been doing), past perfect progressive (I had been doing) and so on.



“Since” tells us when the action began; whether it has concluded or not is irrelevant. It can be used with a time expression: “It has been raining since 11:00 a.m.” or with a moment that works as a reference in time (this is the adverbial case): “She has been the breadwinner in her house since she got divorced”. This latter use has been the source of confusion regarding how similar it is to the conjunction “Because”. Simple:“Because” introduces a reason why something happens; “Since” points out when something began happening.



Quite opposite to “Since”, “Until” mentions when an action ends. It can also appear accompanied by a time or a date: “We drank absinthe until 4:00 a.m.” or a moment working as a reference in time: “He laughed until his belly ached”. Now, they are complementary opposites, but please, avoid using “Since” and “Until” together in the same sentence. We’ll take care of that right away.



This is a combo you always need together. Just think of a screenshot when you are writing an e-mail, there are two boxes you must fill out: FROM –where you write the address of the one who sends the message- and TO –where you write the address of the person receiving the message. Origin and destination. Alpha and Omega. Beginning and end. Thus, From” and “To” work together to indicate when the action begins and when it ends.We performed a Harlem Shake from 2:30 p.m. to 2:32 p.m. and we were exhausted, both physically and intellectually”.


You will be on the safest path if you remember but this: If you use “Since”, don’t use “Until”. If you use “Since” or “Until”, don’t use “For”. And if you use “From” and “To”, don’t use any of the others.