We haven’t talked about English grammar in a while, so today we jump in and pick just one English word since and take a thorough analysis into its correct use.
I’m always just a little astonished and disappointed at just how complicated the English language can get. Today I started with just one word and before I knew it I was fighting to keep the podcast under 10 minutes. It’s crazy just how complex English grammar gets when you're using the correct grammar and trying to explain the why and how of it.
It amazes me how much of this use is just automatic for native English speakers, you can trust me when I say most English people never think about the correct way to say something, it just comes out correct without thinking about it.
So hopefully for those who are learning to speak English as a second language and who are practising their ESL English grammar, listening to this podcast lesson will help your automatic learning. With enough repeat listening your going to spot when it
just sounds wrong if you use the word since incorrectly.
Hairdresser Lockdown Adverbial Participle Thundery
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Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. And hello from what has been a thundery, wet UK. We’ve had temperatures in the 30s this week – and a paddling pool in the garden just so we could cool down. But you don’t get 30C in the UK for very long, without thunder and lightning arriving so you have to enjoy the hot weather while it lasts. I hope you’re enjoying your weather wherever you are?
If you would like to work on expanding your vocabulary and ensuring that you’ve got the most common words in English covered – I recommend that you buy our course The 500 Most Common Words Course from Adept English. It will make your learning so much easier, if you have an understanding of the most commonly used words. So this course gives you breadth, it’s ‘wide’ learning. But what’s also important in your language learning, is sometimes that you do ‘depth’ learning.
So for example, there are troublesome little words in English, tiny little words that cause problems in the way that you use them. So my plan for today is to tackle one of these. What about the word ‘since’, S-I-N-C-E? It’s five letters long – how can that be complicated? Well, ‘since’, is one of those English words that can be used in a number of ways – so let’s investigate
‘Since’ is used when we use ‘It’ to talk about an event in the past, and the amount of time that’s elapsed since the event, since it happened. So ‘since’ can be used to talk about an amount of time….
- It’s a few minutes since the postman delivered the parcel. Or
- It’s an hour since she left to catch her train. Or
- How long since he started working for our company?
- It’s only three weeks since his last letter.
- It’s been six months since I first met my father.
- It had been ages since we last went on holiday.
So ‘It + since’ can be used with a noun clause, notice:-
- ‘It’s only three weeks since his last letter’
- ‘It’s four years since my accident’ Here the verb is implied ‘Since his last letter arrived’ or ‘since my accident happened’. But you can leave the verb out.
Sometimes we can use ‘since’ with a date, or a point in time, to make an adverbial phrase:-
- Since December 2017, I’ve been living in London.
- I’ve been living in London, since the age of 21.
But you can’t use since directly with a duration. You can’t say for instance ‘since three weeks’, or ‘since five years’ – you’d say instead ‘It’s been three weeks since….’ or ‘Since I joined the company five years ago...’. Or you’d use ‘for’, F-O-R here – ‘For three weeks’, ‘for five years’.
‘Since’ is used often as a conjunction, a joining word when talking about a specific point in time, up til now. So it tends to use present perfect continuous tense. For example:-
- She has been out shopping, since 9 o’clock this morning. (And the implication is ‘She’s still out shopping – how much money is she spending?!’)
- He has been helping with this work, since it began in 2014.
- We have been visiting London, since my sister moved there.
So present perfect continuous, ‘have been’ or ‘has been’, and ‘since’ + perfect tense is the usual form here. But you can also use ‘since’ with present perfect continuous in both parts of the sentence.
- I have been losing weight, since I have been out walking every day.
- He has been working for the company, since he has been living in the area.
- Since we have been visiting Spain, we have been learning to speak Spanish.
‘Since’ can also be used with the past perfect progressive tense. This tense is used when an action is even further back in the past, but it has a continuity – it kept happening over a period of time.
They had been talking about getting married abroad, since they got engaged. The sense here is that ‘talking about getting married’ has since stopped, it’s ended at a point in the past. So the conversation could continue something like ‘And they had their wedding in Greece last summer’. Another example?
- I had been looking for a new hairdresser, since my last hairdresser closed her shop.
So the past perfect progressive tense indicates that the ‘looking for’ has now stopped – and therefore the next part of the conversation might go
And now I’ve found one. She’s really good!.
A photograph of a lady cutting hair, used as an example use of the word since in this English grammar lesson.
So you can also use ‘since’ with past perfect tense too. So this tense means it’s an action which had already been completed when another action took place.
- It had been 10 years since I’d played the piano, but I started having lessons again.
- When I met her, she had had dogs, since she was a small girl.
- As I got to the shop, I realised it had been closed since lockdown.
So here both parts of the sentence are in the past, but with the clause where it’s further past, ‘since’ is used to specify the point in time that that situation began.
Another way to use ‘since’ is with the present participle, the -ing form of the verb.
- Since leaving Argentina, he has travelled round the world.
- Since starting to learn the trumpet, he’s joined a band.
‘Since’ is used also to describe time, where the context is already known. So you might say:-
- They met and fell in love four years ago. They haven’t been apart since.
- We bought a house in December 2008 and we’ve extended it lots of times since.
So that ‘since’ is on the end of the sentence and implies ‘since then’, where you’ve already got context.
If you want to stress ‘since’, you can put ‘ever’, E-V-E-R in front of it – ‘ever since’. It works with some ‘since’ sentences, but not with others. So using some previous examples here:-
- When I met her, she had had dogs, ever since she was a small girl. Or
- As I got to the shop, I realised that it had been closed ever since the lockdown.
So that stresses the ‘since’. But you can’t use ‘ever since’ in the sentence ‘It had been 10 years since I’d played the piano, but I started having lessons again’. The ‘ever’ doesn’t work if the point of the sentence is to communicate a specific amount of time elapsed. But you can say ‘It has been 10 years since I started playing the piano – and I have been playing ever since’.
You can use ‘ever since’ when ‘since’ is a conjunction, and the starting point in time is a situation or specific date, just not with a specific duration. So the following sentences are correct:-
- We‘ve been visiting London, ever since my sister moved there.
- I had been looking for a new hairdresser, ever since my last hairdresser closed her shop.
- We’ve been holidaying in Spain, ever since 2014.
The last way that we use ‘since’ that I’m going to talk about today – you can use it to give a reason. So you can test this by substituting the word ‘as’, A-S for ‘since’. If it still makes sense with ‘as’ in place of ‘since’, ‘since’ being used to give a reason.
- Since you’ve mentioned alcohol, would you like a drink? That could be
As you’ve mentioned alcohol, would you like a drink?
- She decided to travel by car, since the trains were not running on that day.
- Since there was no one to answer the door, I left the flowers on the doorstep.
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That’s more than enough to go on with, enough grammar. English has little words which can be complicated to use correctly, harder than you might anticipate. Hopefully that’s given you some things to think about and made it a bit clearer when you use ‘since’. Adept English is your guide to English grammar, but we help you learn perfect English grammar though listening, so that it’s easier!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.