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I have not worked here for a long time/for many years.

Is it ambiguous? Which of the two below is the correct meaning?

  1. I have been working here, but only for a short period of time.
  2. I once worked here, but I left a long time ago.

If it is ambiguous, how to express these two meanings unambiguously?

Another related expression:

I have not worked here in a long time/in many years.

I think it unambiguously expresses the 2nd meaning so I didn't bring it up. But I want to confirm it with experts here.

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I think you've answered your own question; sentences 1 and 2 both express the two thoughts unambiguously (and, yes, the first sentence is ambiguous). –  J.R. Mar 23 '13 at 7:02
    
@coleopterist Actually, the original text I read uses "in a long time". I thought "have not worked here in a long time" unambiguously expresses the 2nd meaning, right? –  an0 Mar 23 '13 at 13:53
    
@an0 Yes, pretty much. –  coleopterist Mar 23 '13 at 14:12
    
You can also unambiguously say, "I have not worked here for long". (Sense #1.) –  MετάEd Mar 23 '13 at 18:20

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

From a strictly grammatical point of view it is ambiguous. However a native speaker would only use the phrasing "for a long time" if they meant that they had worked here previously but it was a long time ago.

If the other interpretation was intended they would say:

I haven't worked here for very long.

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Thanks. How about "have not worked here in a long time"? See my update in the question. –  an0 Mar 23 '13 at 13:58
    
Most natives in these parts would omit the for. And, in conversation, they'd use intonation to distinguish the intended sense of the the other common reading: Eeh, I haven't worked here for YEARS. If they had to negate a claim (the third reading), it would be Naah, I HAVEN'T worked here for years; or fourth: I haven't worked HERE for years, or fifth: I haven't worked here for years. –  Edwin Ashworth Mar 23 '13 at 14:49
    
@EdwinAshworth- I agree for is optional. I can conjure situations where I'd use it and where I wouldn't. –  Jim Mar 23 '13 at 17:22

Sure, you can try to pretend that “I haven’t worked here since last week” can have two meanings:

  1. one saying you stopped working there a week ago
  2. the other saying you have indeed worked there but that the duration is other than a single week, like a month or a day

But anyone claiming the second definition applies is being a weasel.

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The statement implies that the speaker has worked for the company before, but it does not state whether the speaker has resumed employment. It looks like the speaker is only trying to convey meaning #2 (at least with this sentence).

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This doesn't really answer the question. –  coleopterist Mar 23 '13 at 4:46
    
Sorry, I missread. I though he was asking how to combine the sentences –  parap Mar 23 '13 at 4:48

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