Do I clearly understand difference between this two sentences?

  1. "How long do you dance?" - As I understand I can use this sentence to ask a person about his expirience in dancing.

  2. "How long have you been dancing?" - As I understand it is good for case when someone is dancing in the club (right now) and I am asking him about how much time he is dancing there?

The question is: Can I use the second sentence in situation when I want to ask a professional dancer about years of his dancing expirience?

  • 1
    "How long do you dance" would ordinarily be used only to ask a dancer the usual length of his performances. Use the second. Feb 13, 2016 at 22:09
  • 1
    So, Is the first sentence can only have meaning like: "How long do you perfom a dance?" and nothing else? Feb 13, 2016 at 22:24
  • I can't offhand think of another situation when it would be used. Feb 13, 2016 at 22:29

2 Answers 2


Your first question

How long do you dance?

sounds very weird to me. The only interpretation is the one in the comments: how long does your performance last?

Your other question

How long have you been dancing?

is the perfect form to ask someone who is dancing right now, and you want to ask how much time has passed since they have started dancing. USUALLY, sentences with the present perfect continuous express how long you have done something with no interruption.

However, you may want to ask a third thing:

How long have you danced? How long have you been a dancer?

This could be when you see a very good dancer, and you ask how many years of experience he has. Sentences with the present perfect express how long you have done something with interruptions.

A typical example is:

How long have you been studying English? I have been studying for 3 hours (continuously, with very little breaks)

How long have you studied English? I have studied it for 4 years (obviously, you have done other things too!)

  • I am confused by use cases of Present Continuous tense. As books say that you can use it to describe temporary things during current period of time. Like: I am reading book about Mars (during a mouth for example). Obiviously, that you are doing another things during this period. But why do we use continious verb? :-) Feb 13, 2016 at 22:54
  • @jenova that is present continuous, not present perfect continuous! I will refer you to some links 1, 2 and 3 Feb 14, 2016 at 0:11
  • I understand it, but from the point of learner, it is unnecessary complicated :-) Why in one case continious verb is a good for things with interruptions (present continuous) ,and in other - no (present perfect continuous). Feb 14, 2016 at 9:39
  • Maybe, my technical mind tries for nothing to rationalize information which doesn't have strong logical relations. Feb 14, 2016 at 9:45
  • @jenova they're two different verb tenses, so you use them for different things. I understand it's unnecessarily complicated, but you just gotta live with it (coming from an engineer :)). Feb 14, 2016 at 10:48

Yes, you can. As an instance, you can find this question in the link below which was asked from a professional Kaplan teacher during a formal interview,How long have you been teaching English? And how long have you been with Kaplan?

I assume the same is true about dancing, as Job Shadow describes his experience in dancing as, I have been dancing/ performing since I was five years old

About your first question the difference I mean, present simple describes routines. So when you asks, "How long do you dance?", you might get an answer like, "I dance four hours a day." or the addressee might infer from your question his ability to keep dancing for a particular period of time, so might get this response, "I can dance for three hours, what have you got?" :)

One more point according to Top Notch 2 by Saslow and Ascher,

When describing continuing and unfinished action with for and since, the present perfect and the present perfect continuous are both correct. Some people feel the present perfect continuous emphasizes the continuing time a bit more

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.