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Can I start a sentence with "For the last ten years...?" and do I need to put a comma after that. For instance, "For the last ten years, I have been doing my PhD". I am grateful for your help.

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    I think it's better to say for the past ten years...
    – Schwale
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 21:01
  • I agree with @Ustanak, i.e., "For the past ten years, I have been doing my PhD."
    – user184292
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 21:24
  • 'For the preceding decade, I've been undertaking my PhD.'
    – user180089
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 21:57
  • 'The whole of these past ten years has been spent on my PhD.'
    – user180089
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 22:07
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    Just don't end that sentence with student.
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 23:34

2 Answers 2

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Yes you can, but a comma is optional.

  • For the last ten years, I have been doing my PhD.

"For the last ten years" is a introductory prepositional phrase, and "I have been doing my PhD" is an independent clause. A comma is optional to separate introductory prepositional phrase from the rest of the sentence. In this case, I would use a comma, because the introductory phrase isn't required for the sentence and is there to add detail to it.

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You don't need a comma if there is no confusion and the sentence is short. "For the past ten years I've been ill."

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    As the other answer suggests, I think you are supposed to have a comma. However, it is common to see native speakers omit the comma in their writings... but it's common to see native speakers butcher punctuation in all manner of ways. Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 0:22
  • -1 The usage of a comma here is nothing to do with either confusion or length of sentence: it is to do with separating the clauses for ease of reading and immediate understanding, as indicated in the other example.
    – TrevorD
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 0:40
  • As indicated by @Gandalf, because the independent phrase is short you can drop the comma. If the independent phrase was long or complicated for some reason, the comma helps. As it stands, putting a pause between "For the last ten years" and "I have been working on my PhD" would be awkward if you were to speak it aloud and is somewhat awkward written. Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 1:46

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