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I can't understand why for can be used with past simple. Here're two expressions from my textbook:

How long have you been married?

meaning they're still married.

How long were you married?

meaning they're no longer married.

For both of them the answers should be for 2 years. What does for mean in both cases?

Thank you.

  • Q: How long have you been married? A: Five happy years. Twenty total. – deadrat Dec 13 '15 at 9:55
  • Does your answer mean till now? – Marita Dec 13 '15 at 11:47
  • Sorry, I shouldn't joke around like this in comments. It means that I've been married a total of twenty years (from the wedding till now), but only five of those years have been happy. Usually when people say I've been married for X happy years, they mean that they've been married for X years and they've all been happy years. My wife doesn't think this is very funny either. – deadrat Dec 13 '15 at 11:54
  • It's no problem with your joke:)Hope you're still happy:). I just try to catch the peculiarity of present perfect usage with prepositions,adverbs. – Marita Dec 13 '15 at 12:09
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As a preposition, for can be used for:

Indicating the length of (a period of time): he was jailed for 12 years, I haven't seen him for some time.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]

Tense of a sentence doesn't have anything to do with its usage. For examples:

I ran for 2 hours yesterday.

It indicates the length of running that happened yesterday.

I will run for 2 hours this weekend.

It indicates the length of running that will happen this weekend.

I have been running for 2 hours.

It indicates the length of running that started (around) 2 hours ago.

As you can see above, tense of a sentence has nothing to do with the preposition for's usage.

  • You see in textbooks for is often explained as go together with present perfect. May be it is done to simplify the understanding for non-natives. – Marita Dec 13 '15 at 8:17
  • @Marita Yes, some grammar books emphasize that for is used with present perfect often, but it doesn't necessarily mean it is used only with present perfect, i.e. "I had been drinking for an hour before he asked me to come back to office". It can be used with past perfect, too. – user140086 Dec 13 '15 at 8:38
  • Now I understand. I think I should ask one more question to clarify the usage of present perfect and past simple. – Marita Dec 13 '15 at 8:52
  • @Marita There are a lot of duplicates. I would advise you to use the search first before posting a question and ask a question based on how the previous answers don't answer your question. Your above question might be a duplicate (I couldn't find it), too. – user140086 Dec 13 '15 at 9:16
  • Ok,I'll try to search the answer. – Marita Dec 13 '15 at 9:30

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