Français 22
Rappel grammatical:  Depuis, Pendant et il y a


Depuis + present tense
 

For
Elle habite à Port-au-Prince depuis 3 ans
She has been living in Port-au-Prince for 3 years. (And she is still living there.) 

Depuis combien de temps habite-t-elle à Port-au-Prince? 
(For) How long has she been living in Port-au-Prince?

Since

Elle habite à Port-au-Prince depuis 1995
She has been living in Port-au-Prince since 1995(And she is still living there.) 

Depuis quand habite-t-elle à Port-au-Prince? 
Since when has she been living in Port-au-Prince? 
 


Depuis expresses an action that began in the past but is still going on in the present.  For this reason, it is used with the present tense in French.  When depuis is used with a duration of time (3 ans, 2 heures, 15 jours, 6 mois), it means "for," and the question one asks is Depuis combien de temps (for how long...?).  But when depuis is used with a specific point in time (3h15, le 15 janvier, 1986), it means "since" and the question one asks is Depuis quand (since when ...?).
 

More ways to say the same thing:

Question:  Depuis combien de temps étudiez-vous le français?
 
J'étudie le français depuis 3 ans
Voilà trois ans que j'étudie le français. 
Cela fait trois ans que j'étudie le français. 
Il y a trois ans que j'étudie le français.
I have been studying French for 3 years. 
I have been studying French for 3 years. 
I have been studying French for 3 years. 
I have been studying French for 3 years.

In answer to the question, Depuis combien de temps ...?, four answers are possible.  All four mean exactly the same thing.  Voilà ... que, cela fait ... que, and il y a ... que all mean "for."  Once again, all four are used with the present tense.  Notice that these variations can be used only with depuis combien de temps.  In response to the question, "Depuis quand, " only depuis + expression of time is possible.

top

Depuis + imperfect
 
For
Elle lisait depuis une heure quand elle s'est endormie. 
She had been reading for an hour when she fell asleep. 

Depuis combien de temps lisait-elle quand elle s'est endormie? 
(For) How long had she been reading when she fell asleep?

Since
Elle habitait un petit village depuis 1987 quand ses parents l'ont abandonnée.. 
She had been living in a small village since 1987 when her parents abandonned her. 

Depuis quand habitait-elle un petit village quand ses parents l'ont abandonné? 
Since when had she been living in a small village when her parents abandonned her?

 

Depuis is used with the imperfect to express an action that had been going on when it was interrupted by another action which is also in the past.  The interruption itself is usually expressed by the passé composé.  The same distinction between "for" (a duration of time) and "since" (a specific point in time) applies here.
 
 

Depuis + passé composé

The ONLY time depuis may be used with the passé composé is when the sentence is in the negative:
 
 

Je ne t'ai pas vu depuis longtemps.

Elle n'est pas venue en classe depuis lundi.

I haven't seen you for a longtime.

She hasn't come to class since Monday.

top


Pendant + passé composé
 
Pendant combien de temps a-t-elle écouté la directrice? 
Elle a écouté la directrice pendant 15 minutes. 

Pendant combien de temps est-elle restée à l'école? 
Elle est restée à l'ecole pendant 7 ans.

(For) How long did she listen to the principal? 

She listened to the principal for 15 minutes. 

(For) How long did she stay at the school? 

She stayed at the school for 7 years.


Pendant also means "for".  So what is the difference between for/depuis and for/pendant?  There are two distinctions that must be made:

  1. Pendant is normally used with the passé composé and expresses an action that is completed, finished, done.  Remember that with depuis, you are expressing an action that began in the past, but continues into the present.  Therefore, depuis + present or depuis + imperfect expresses an action that is ongoing and not yet complete.
  2. Pendant is normally used with the passé composé.  Depuis is normally used ONLY with the present tense or the imperfect, unless the sentence is negative.  If the sentence is negative, depuis may be used with the passé composé.
top


Il y a + expression of time
 
Elle est arrivée à Port-au-Prince il y a 8 ans

Ses parents l'ont abandonnée il y a 14 ans.

She arrived in Port-au-Prince 8 years ago. 

Her parents abandonned her 14 years ago.

When il y a is followed by an expression of time, it means "ago."  Since the word "ago" automatically implies the past, il y a must be used with a past tense, usually passé composé.  Notice that in French, the expression il y a preceeds the period of time (il y a 3 jours, il y a 15 mois, il y a 7 ans)..

Do not confuse il y a meaning "ago," with il y a, meaning "there is, there are."  When it means "ago," it is always followed by an expression of time.  Context will usually make the distinction clear.

Il y a treize jeune filles à l'école. (There are ...)
Les jeunes filles sont venues il y a trois mois.  (... three months ago)

top


Testez vos connaissances!