Native speakers of every language have the ability to recognise mistakes and ‘correct’ them in their minds. This means that non-native speakers sometimes never get to find out about their mistakes!

When communicating in English, German speakers, just like speakers of many other languages, often make mistakes when using the word since.

The first challenge is getting the tense right. To a native speaker, the word since normally means we’re not talking about now, we’re actually talking about a period of time that started in the past and is connected to the present. That’s why it’s logical for us to use the perfect tenses:

  • I have lived in Munich since 2008. (I have been living in Munich since 2008 is also possible.)
  • I have been waiting since nine o’clock.
  • I have known him since I was a child.

A language like German has a totally different logic. It uses the preposition seit to indicate when a present action started and therefore uses the present tense:

  • Ich wohne seit 2008 in München.
  • Ich warte seit neun Uhr.
  • Ich kenne ihn seit (or seitdem) ich ein Kind war.

The next difference is that English only uses since to refer to the point of time when an action started (e.g. 2008, nine o’clock, my childhood). Unlike German, which always uses seit, English uses the preposition for when referring to the length of time:

  • I have lived in Germany for eight years. (I have been living in Germany for eight years is also possible) (German: seit acht Jahren)
  • I have been waiting for two hours. (German: seit zwei Stunden)
  • I have known him for a long time. (German: seit Langem)

Understanding the theory is hard enough, but putting all of this into practice takes time. So, whenever you want to use since, answer these two questions:

  1. Have I used the correct tense (i.e. a perfect tense)?
  2. Is since correct, or do I actually need for (if it’s actually a length of time)?

By using this ‘checklist’, you’ll quickly stop making these mistakes. Try my quiz to test out this checklist!

Do you often make mistakes when using since? Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions!

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