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When you returned, I had been at home since 10 minutes.

When you returned, I had been at home from 5 minutes.

In such sentences, is it correct to use since or from? When since is used?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 17 down vote accepted

This is an area which often gives difficulty between English and other European languages.

  • over a period: "for", "I have been working for two hours" (In some cases you can omit the 'for', eg "I have been waiting two hours")

  • from a point: "since": "I have been working since 12"

"From" is unusual here: I think it is only used to give emphasis to the starting point, and notice that it would take a simple past continous, not a perfect continuous: "I was waiting here from 12 o'clock!"

A difficulty that French and German speakers often have is that they want to say "I am here since ... ", which is never idiomatic in English. There is one instance of this that actually does cause confusion some times: when an English speaker asks "How long are you here?" they are asking about the future, but a French or German speaker will often misunderstand that as about the past (i.e. "How long have you been here?").

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Both are wrong. You use since when talking about a specific point in time. (I suppose you could use from in this case as well, but I haven't seen it in actual American usage.) For example:

When you returned, I had been home since 3:00.

When talking about a duration, for is used:

When you returned, I had been home for 10 minutes.

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Both seem awkward.

I would write

When you returned I had been home for 10 minutes.

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1  
If OP's native language is Italian, I guess the misunderstanding might stem from there. (Spanish, relatively close to Italian, at least has a construct like "desde hace 10 minutos", literally "since 10 minutes ago"...) –  Jonik Aug 19 '10 at 14:15
    
@Jonik: My first language is Italian. In Italian we say quando sei tornato, ero a casa da 10 minuti; da can be translated with both since, or from, and that is the reason I asked. –  kiamlaluno Aug 19 '10 at 14:23

I won't say since and from in the above sentence. As since indicates point of time whereas from denotes time from starting to end. Let's see in the below example:

I have not seen her since morning.

Boys play cricket from 4pm to 6pm every sunday.

Rather, I would use for in the sentence which is used to show a length of time.

When you returned, I had been at home for 5 minutes.

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protected by tchrist Jul 24 at 17:42

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