Use of the Word “Since”

Why can't Germans use 'SINCE' correctly?

As you may know, I live in Berlin. And one question that I get all the time is "How long have you lived in Berlin?" It's an important small talk question that comes up for anyone who doesn't live in the same city they were born in.

Unfortunately, lots of Germans don't know how to answer this question correctly. Of course they know the answer, but they make a grammar mistake that is super common for Germans. And now it's time for your test.

I moved to Berlin in 2012, and it's now 2017. How should I answer the question "How long have you lived in Berlin?"

If you said "I live here since 5 years," you'd be wrong. In this case, you can't translate "Ich wohne hier seit 5 Jahren" directly into English.

The Problem

In English, we have two different ways of talking about things in the past. 

point in time (Zeitpunkt) - use 'since'

duration of time (Zeitraum) - use 'for'

So here are two ways to say "Ich wohne hier seit 5 Jahren" correctly:

  • I have lived here since 5 years ago ('5 years ago' is a Zeitpunkt)
  • I have lived here for 5 years ('5 years' is a Zeitraum)

You can also say 'since' + the date/month/year you arrived. That means I could say:

  • I have lived here since 2012.

More Examples

Here are a few more examples. If you'd like to practice, or have a question about whether a particular sentence is correct, feel free to write me in the comments

  • I have been studying English since I was a child.
  • Since she got married, she hasn't been to the US.
  • They have been very stressed out since 3 weeks ago.
  • I have lived in Berlin since 2012.
  • I have been studying English for 10 years.
  • They have been stressed out for 3 weeks.