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Recently I was told that when since is used in a present perfect tense sentence, the time point after it should be specific.

He further points out that the sentence "The restaurant has been here since my dad was alive" is wrong.

Is it true?

Any opinions or advice are welcome

Thanks in advance

  • The phrase "when my Dad was alive" does refer to a specific time, as do "since the nineteenth century," "since last week" and "since Hector was a pup." – remarkl Feb 13 at 17:55
  • @remarkl The phrase "when my Dad was alive" does NOT refer to a specific time: if he lived for 80 years, it could refer to any time within those 80 years. Likewise "since the nineteenth century" does NOT refer to a specific time: it could be referring to the beginning, middle, or end of the nineteenth century. – TrevorD Feb 19 at 20:32
  • @Trevor - Only Herr Planck knows what constitutes a specific time. Everything else is a time span. It makes no less grammatical sense to say "since I drew my first breath" than to say "since the day I was born" or "since the year" I was born" or "since the twentieth century." They are all specific times for grammatical purposes. Yes, "since my Dad was alive" could refer to any date in Dad's lifetime, or to all of the days in Dad's lifetime. But in the cosmic scheme of things, any time period is "specific" for grammatical purposes. Do you think the sentence in the question is wrong? – remarkl Feb 19 at 20:48
  • Whether such phrases as "the nineteenth century", or "the days of Moses" are "specific times" or not, it is perfectly grammatical, and idiomatic to say "It has been the case since the nineteenth century/the days of Moses". – WS2 Mar 15 at 10:23
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I think that what's going on is that your source has not expressed themselves very well, and you've latched on to the wrong bit of their explanation.

I think that their point was that in English since is followed by what you might call a 'location' in time, rather than (as in some languages) an elapsed period.

The 'location' doesn't have to be very specific or momentary, but it is placed in time. Examples might be:

[the time when] my father was alive

three years ago

Last Tuesday

[the time when] I moved to Yorkshire.

Star Wars (i.e. "the time when Star Wars was released, or when it became popular")

Obama (i.e. "the time when Obama was elected, or when he left office, or the whole period of his presidency")

You can see that it doesn't have to be specific at all.

I think that what your source was warning you against is things like

*since three years

*since two days

which I've starred because they're not grammatical in English, but they're something that speakers of other languages often say.

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"... We also use since as a conjunction to introduce a subordinate clause:

(...) He’s been back to the office a few times since he retired. (since + clause)"

From here. So, as you can see, it doesn't have to be a specific point in time; it just has to refer to the past.

  • Thanks for replying. So do you think my example sentence is correct? – Chien Te Lu Feb 13 at 10:22
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    Your sentence is acceptable, but it might be more idiomatic to say '...since before my dad died' or 'it was here in my dad's lifetime'. – Kate Bunting Feb 13 at 15:04
  • @KateBunting I agree to the first one, but the second sentences sounds quite off to me. Why do you suggest that? – krobelusmeetsyndra Feb 13 at 15:16
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    @krobelusmeetsyndra Because the restaurant existed for [part of] the time that the father was alive. It's just another way of expressing the idea. – Kate Bunting Feb 14 at 9:05

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