"I have loved you for many years". As I understand it, this sentence can have 2 different meanings.

  1. I still love her. It started a long time ago.
  2. I don't love her anymore.

Am I correct?

  • 2
    The second is not a necessary implication of the sentence. By itself, your 2 is not implied. Given the right context, it could be; but alone it is not supported by that sentence.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 22:46
  • The sentence itself means only that as of the moment of the utterance you are loved. What follows determines the meaning of the whole proposition: I have loved you for many years ... until now. Or: I have loved you for many years ... and I still do. Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:09
  • 1
    No, not really. You have simply not given enough context. The importance of context in English cannot be overstated.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:09
  • "I loved you for many years" indicates a former love.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


Technical answer: I suspect you're asking about the implications of the present perfect tense. Yes, technically the present perfect is for "a state that began in the past and is still true in the present."

I have studied French for two years. (As soon as those two years were done, this sentence became true, and that state has not changed.)

Note, however, that I'm not currently studying French. The sentence "I have loved you for many years" says nothing about my current "loving"; it says my state of having loved is current.

Okay, enough technicality, let's talk practical application. No, there is nothing in the sentence that would support an interpretation of "I don't love here anymore." Meanings are dependent on context, and additional sentences could provide that interpretation, but by itself the sentence "means" nothing other than "I am in a state of having loved you for many years."


There is an example of your second option. Near the end of the novel, Agnes Wickfield, the daughter of Mr Wickfield in whose house David stays while her is at school, admits that she is in love with him (David Copperfield). Her words are:-

I have loved you all my life.

They marry and live happily (presumably) ever afterwards. Here it quite evidently is not the prelude to a rejection of the young man.

At the same time, it is quite true that is a woman I was in love with said "I have loved you for many years.", I might suffer a twinge of unease. Could she be winding herself up to dropping me?

What we learn from this is that the use of the continuous past can be context dependent. This does not invalidate the general rule about this tense. Simply, in some contexts hearers might ask themselves "Why is s/he putting it like that? This will be particularly true of statements of feelings, commitments and attitudes, where it can be used as a prelude to a statement to the effect that the feeling/commitment/attitude is about to come to an end.

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