Learn how to talk about how long something happens for, and do the exercises to practise it.

Level: beginner

We use for to say how long:

We have been waiting for twenty minutes.
They lived in Manchester for fifteen years.

We can also use a noun phrase without for:

Let’s go. We’ve been waiting nearly an hour.
I’ve worked here twenty years.

We use since with the present perfect or the past perfect to say when something started:

I have worked here since December.
They had been watching since seven o’clock in the morning.

How long 1


We use from … to/until to say when something starts and finishes:

They stayed with us from Monday to Friday.
We will be on holiday from the sixteenth until the twentieth.

Be careful!

We can use to or until with a noun phrase:

My great-grandmother lived in Liverpool from 1940 to her death.
My great-grandmother lived in Liverpool from 1940 until her death.

But we can only use until with a clause

My great-grandmother lived in Liverpool from 1940 to she died.
My great-grandmother lived in Liverpool from 1940 until she died.

How long 2


Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.

Submitted by howtosay_ on Wed, 08/03/2023 - 13:44



Could you please help me with the following:

Could you please tell me if both options are possible:

1. He has been waiting to be served (in a cafe) for two hours.

2. He has been waiting for two hours to be served (in a cafe).

Thank you so much for your helpfulness and I'm very grateful for your answer to this post beforehand!!!

Hello howtosay_,

To be honest, I find both of these awkward, especially 2. Unless all three parts (to be served, in a café, for two hours) were really needed, I'd leave one of them out. I might say, for example, 'He's been waiting to be served for two hours'. It really depends a lot on the situation, especially how much the person I'm speaking to knows.

But if I had to choose one of those two, I suppose I'd choose 1. But I'm not sure I'd say that 2 is incorrect.

In general, when there is an adverbial of time ('for two hours') and an adverbial of place ('in a café') in the predicate, we put the place adverbial before the time adverbial. For example, we generally say 'I'm going to the beach tomorrow' and not *'I'm going tomorrow to the beach'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Profile picture for user OlaIELTS

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Mon, 13/07/2020 - 02:01

It's an helpful tip.
Profile picture for user amit_ck

Submitted by amit_ck on Fri, 28/12/2018 - 17:08

Hi, If someone will get holiday for 10 days, how can ask in proper way that “how many days/how long he got his holiday” and after passing his holiday “how long/how many days he had his holiday.”
Profile picture for user amit_ck

Submitted by amit_ck on Sat, 29/12/2018 - 04:40

In reply to by amit_ck

Sir you didn't answer my question. Could you please answer my question. Thank you.

Hello amit_ck,

Please be patient when waiting for answers to questions. We are a small team here at LearnEnglish and we receive many questions every day. While we try to answer as quicky as we can, sometimes it can take a few days. Posting messages asking us to respond more quickly only slows the process down.



The LearnEnglish Team

I'm really really sorry sir I couldn't understan. Thank you for helping me.
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 30/12/2018 - 08:19

In reply to by amit_ck


Hi amit_ck,

I'm not sure I entirely understand the context here, but I'll try to answer.

I think the best option for the first question would be:

How long will the holiday last?


How long will the holiday be?


For the second question I would say:

How long did the/his/your holiday last?


How long was the/his/your holiday?



The LearnEnglish Team