FOR, AGO & SINCE (Accuracy Check!)

Lesson Overview

You have probably learned how to use the prepositions FOR, AGO & SINCE in English! Now… Let’s check how accurately you are using them!

Reminders:
🔸 AGO is used with the past simple tense after the time phrase
🔸 FOR is often used in the perfect tenses (but can be used in other tenses too!). It comes before the time phrase!
🔸 SINCE can only be used in the perfect tenses and always comes before the time phrase!

HOMEWORK!
To practise, answer this question in three different ways (using for, ago and since) in the comments!
How long have you been learning English?


Video Transcript

Hey there, I’m Emma from mmmEnglis!

In this lesson, you are going to master some important English prepositions. Three little prepositions that often get mixed up by my students. For, since, and ago. They all help us to talk about time, and although they are all often used to talk about past time, they are each used in quite a specific way. So we are going to cover off everything that you need to know about for, since, and ago right now. And at the end, you can check that you can use these English prepositions accurately with a little test that I’ve made for you.

Let’s dive in.

Ago

Ago is a preposition of time. We use it together with an amount of time, an amount of time like one minute, two hours, three weeks, ten years, any amount of time. And it describes how long before the present time that an action or an event took place. We often use it to answer the question about when.

When did Sarah move to Sydney?

  • She moved to Sydney ten years ago.

It’s 2023 now. This action took place ten years in the past in 2013. It happened ten years ago.

Ago always comes at the end of a sentence or clause just like this.

  • I talked to him a few minutes ago.
  • He sent the letter three days ago.

Now, do you notice what tense each of these sentences are in? Exactly, the past simple. We use ago in sentences that are in the simple past. We use it to describe completed actions in the past and when or how far back into the past that they occurred.

So let’s look at a few more examples now.

  • I started learning English three months ago.
  • I ate lunch about an hour ago.
  • They left ten minutes ago.

So I want you to think about the last time that you ate a sandwich and finish this sentence in the comments for me.

  • The last time I ate a sandwich was about a week ago.

For

For is also used to express a length of time or a period of time, but we use it before an amount of time to describe how long an action or an event takes place.

How long has Sarah lived in Sydney?

  • She’s lived in Sydney for ten years.

Remember, it’s 2023 now. Sarah moved to Sydney ten years ago, so I can use ago to say when she moved, but if I want to emphasise how long the length of time that she’s lived there, then I use for. The amount of time that she has lived in Sydney is ten years. She’s lived there for ten years.

We often use for with perfect tenses, especially when we want to talk about something that started in the past and continues up until the present.

  • They’d only been waiting for two minutes.
  • They’ve been friends for a long time.

So we can use for with a precise amount of time like two minutes or with a time phrase that describes a less precise amount of time, like a long time.

So hit pause for a moment and write me a sentence down in the comments. I want you to look at the clothes that you are wearing and write a sentence about how long you’ve owned that piece of clothing.

  • This jumper is still new. I’ve owned it for about a month.

Now for simply describes an amount or a duration of time. So while it is really common to use it in perfect tenses, you can also use it in other tenses too.

  • We spoke for one minute.
  • We’ll be away for seven days.
  • We go on holiday for two weeks every year.

Prepositions 8×8 is a step-by-step course for intermediate to advance learners to go beyond the basics and to learn eight different ways to use eight prepositions in everyday spoken English. You’ll learn some advanced word patterns that are going to take your English skills to the next level. Plus every lesson includes an interactive speaking practice with me using the English Imitation Technique.

Now, of course, I have a free lesson for you to try so you can see what you think for yourself. Just click the link in the description or follow that one up there and enroll and try it out for yourself.


Since

Now since is a preposition of time that is commonly used with perfect tenses. We use it before a time, a day, or a date to describe the precise moment that an action or a state began. Like for, we use since to describe how long something has been happening.

How long has Sarah lived in Sydney?

  • She’s lived there since 2013.

So while we can use both for and since to describe how long an action or a state has been happening, for focuses on the length of time or the duration, and since focuses on the exact moment that an action or a state began.

  • She’s lived in Sydney since 2013.

2013 is the moment that she started living in Sydney.

If somebody asks you: How long have you worked here?

You can answer that question with for or since. It just depends on what you want to emphasise. If you want to emphasise the duration or the precise moment that that state started.

  • I’ve worked here for two months.
  • I’ve worked here since the start of June.

Since describes the precise moment an action began and how long it has been in progress up until now or up until a specific moment in time. And so for this reason, we need to use it with a perfect verb tense. So I’ll show you some examples.

  • I’ve wanted a pony since I was a little girl.
  • He’s been waiting since yesterday.
  • They’ve been watching telly since early in the morning. 

So notice that you can also use since with a general time phrase as well. Since the early morning.


Okay, so let’s test your skills and find out if you can use these three important prepositions perfectly. You’ll see a question come up on screen just like this, and your job is to choose the correct preposition: for, since, or ago. In this case, it needs to be ago. We’re describing how far back in the past an action happened. A few days ago.

Are you ready? Let’s go.

  • He has been there since 2020.
  • He has lived in Darwin for two years already.
  • My brother went to Darwin two years ago.
  • She’s been working there for three hours.
  • She started working in the garden three hours ago.
  • She’s been there since 2:00 PM.
  • I met her twenty years ago.
  • I’ve known Brooke since I was at uni.
  • I’ve known her for a long time.

So how did you go? Tell me down in the comments if you aced that test. And while you’re down there, write three sentences for me using for, since, and ago. One in each sentence. Tell me about the place that you live now, the city or the town that you live in.

I first moved to Perth eleven years ago.

I’ve been living here on and off for nine years.

I’ve lived in my current house since 2020.

So share your sentences down in the comments below, and I’ll see you in the next lesson. Thanks for watching!

Links mentioned in the video

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