I'm a pen pal with a couple of native German speakers. We correct each others mistakes and try to explain why they are mistakes if it's not a cut and dry solution like conjugation etc.

There is a common error they make when they try refer to an event in the past that continues to happen.

Instead of using "for" when appropriate, they use "since".

Some examples:

  1. the most popular band within germany since years, when it comes to alternative rock and pop music

  2. Yes, I play FF since two years, but not very serious.

One of the reason I think this is common is that in German the conjunction "seit" would be used. It is a cognate with a very similar meaning and I think that is contributing to the reason this mistake seems common among them.

After a little internal reasoning this is the answer I have assembled:

You made a small mistake I have seen several German speakers make with whom I have communicated with. You used “since” as the conjunction instead of “for.” You probably used “since” because in German you would use “seit” (I think) and they sound the same and have very similar meaning in both languages. However, “for” is the correct word. Both conjunctions point to a moment of time in the past and indicate whatever is referencing that moment in time is continuing to happen. To know when to use one or the other, think of it this way: “For” is used when a measure of time(minutes, seconds, hours, seconds) is used in the to describe the length of time and “since” does not. Examples: Since I was a boy…. Since I began to….. Since she told me…… For a few days……. For several years……..

I want to be sure that what I have told them is correct. If I'm missing any piece to this answer, then please let me know.

I found this previously asked question here: Is there a difference in meaning between "from the beginning" and "since the beginning"?

I didn't think it answered the question fully enough, so I wanted to ask it with some more clarity.

  • Here's another reference to since english.stackexchange.com/questions/396833/….
    – Xanne
    May 9, 2018 at 4:04
  • 2
    It's usually for a given period of time, but since a given date or incident (which is effectively what you told your friends). May 9, 2018 at 7:49
  • Except for the fact that seit (for, since) are prepositions not conjunctions, I think your answer is fine. But it really can be condensed to the fact that for must be followed by an expression of duration, whereas since refers to a starting point. That said, the best way for learners to understand the difference is to do exercises. Here is one that I have made: esl.fis.edu/grammar/multi/since.htm
    – Shoe
    May 9, 2018 at 9:30
  • @Shoe thanks for your correction about my confusing prepositions/ conjunctions. Also, the resource you made is great, I will be sure to pass it along to my pen pals.
    – W.Harr
    May 9, 2018 at 13:27
  • 1
    The problem is not just that since sounds the same as seit; it's also that in German, seit is used for both for and since. See Wiktionary. Sep 11 at 12:38


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