It's <been> a long time since <I've seen, I saw> ... (It is a long time, It has been a long time)

pieanne

Senior Member
Belgium/French
Hello!
I've been wondering about all the following sentences. Are they all right? If not, WHY? If yes, IN WHICH CASES do I use them? Thank you :)

1. It's a long time since I saw you.
2. It's a long time since I've seen you.
3. It's been a long time since I saw you.
4. It's been a long time since I've seen you.
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hello Pieanne,

    Why don't you tell us which you think are OK?

    pieanne said:
    Hello!
    I've been wondering about all the following sentences. Are they all right? If not, WHY? If yes, IN WHICH CASES do I use them? Thank you :)

    1. I't's a long time since I saw you.
    2. It's a long time since I've seen you.
    3. It's been a long time since I saw you.
    4. It's been a lo,g time since I've seen you.
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    pieanne said:
    Hello!
    I've been wondering about all the following sentences. Are they all right? If not, WHY? If yes, IN WHICH CASES do I use them? Thank you :)

    1. I't's a long time since I saw you.
    2. It's a long time since I've seen you.
    3. It's been a long time since I saw you.
    4. It's been a long time since I've seen you.
    Oh, yes, of course!

    My favourite is 3.
    I heard 1. can be OK too.
    And, as a matter of fact, I've been told all are correct - in the right context-.

    I just wanted to have many natives' opinions.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    pieanne said:
    Hello!
    I've been wondering about all the following sentences. Are they all right? If not, WHY? If yes, IN WHICH CASES do I use them? Thank you :)

    1. I't's a long time since I saw you. It's
    2. It's a long time since I've seen you.
    3. It's been a long time since I saw you.
    4. It's been a lo,g time since I've seen you.
    1. Strict grammarians might have trouble with it. It is common in normal speech. #3 is a better way to express it.

    Really, without context, it is hard to judge these. Any of them might be ok for conversation. #4 is perfectly clear and correct as written, except for the typo in 'long'. :D
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    Yes.
    Yet, I thought that after "since" you only use a complement or a clause that tells the precise moment when the action took place (hence simple past) . How can 4. be correct?
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Pieanne,
    I was unaware of that grammatical rule. I have looked in Fowler and a few other sources, and have not yet found it.
    I don't doubt that it may exist, but in colloquial speech it is often unheeded.
    Here is one dictionary definition of since: "during the time following a past time or event." This is fairly vague, as the 'past time' may be a precise moment, or an interval of time.

    I suggest you wait for a better reply from a grammarian.
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    pieanne said:
    Hello!
    I've been wondering about all the following sentences. Are they all right? If not, WHY? If yes, IN WHICH CASES do I use them? Thank you :)

    1. I't's a long time since I saw you.
    2. It's a long time since I've seen you.
    3. It's been a long time since I saw you.
    4. It's been a long time since I've seen you.
    We are into the interesting zone of what is normally heard v what is grammatically correct.

    Let me start by saying what I would normally say in this situation,

    I haven't seen you for ages!

    Having got that out of the way, let's look at the sentences you give:)

    In normal conversation, (2) and (3) sound good to me.
    (2) is good as it is.
    (3) feels as if it needs more information to be given about the previous time when I saw you.
    (1) and (4) sound wrong.
    I have no idea why, and this is entirely a personal view.
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    pieanne said:
    Hello!
    I've been wondering about all the following sentences. Are they all right? If not, WHY? If yes, IN WHICH CASES do I use them? Thank you :)

    1. I't's a long time since I saw you.
    2. It's a long time since I've seen you.
    3. It's been a long time since I saw you.
    4. It's been a long time since I've seen you.
    They all sound correct to me. Number 4 is what I say: It's been a long time since I've seen you, Pieanne. Where have you been?

    You might want to throw in "last" in 1 and 3: "It's a long time since I saw you last" or "It's been a long time since I last saw you." But they are ok without the "last."

    Acually, what I'm most likely to say is "Hey P. it's been a long time. Gimme five, girl."
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    :)

    What bothers me in fact is (first) the use of the present perfect after "since", and (second) the sentence I found in my grammar: "it's 3 years since I last smoked a cigarette".
     

    marget

    Senior Member
    pieanne said:
    :)

    What bothers me in fact is (first) the use of the present perfect after "since", and (second) the sentence I found in my grammar: "it's 3 years since I last smoked a cigarette".
    That sentence sounds okay to me. I'm sure you could also say "It's been three years since I smoked a cigarette".

    In all the examples you gave, I prefer to say "it's been a long time"....
     

    Kat LaQ

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Wow, a lot of differing opinions here. Fun.

    In my view, ONLY #4 is correct.
    My explanation is not about grammar but about semantics.

    If we are talking about smoking cigarettes, then I smoked a cigarette is the preferred simple past. Not I have smoked a cigarette.
    But if we are talking about seeing a person, there are two possibilities in the past:
    I saw you (last Friday at the moves with my boyfriend, you creep! - at a particular moment in time)
    I have seen you (here before/many times/once or twice, etc - some expression of how often).

    If you say It's been a long time since I saw you:
    a) there is no particular time you are referring to, so it doesn't make sense
    b) my ear is expecting the phrase to continue: It's been a long time since I saw you dance like that. (I remember a particular time I saw you dance like that, but it was a long time ago.)

    If you say It's a long time since I saw you:
    - it sounds very western to me, like a character in an old John Wayne movie.

    Hope that adds to the fun.
     

    Kat LaQ

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Note: You CAN say: I have smoked a cigarette
    But again, it usually requires some expression of how often to be added on the end. Less common with smoking than with seeing.

    -Do you smoke pot?
    -Well, I have smoked a cigarette now and then, but never pot.
     

    roniy

    Senior Member
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    The only one I have ever heard is the third one. But I think the second one is correct too but in another contex.

    I am not sure and I am confused too so I need someone to assure it .

    " It's a long time since I've seen you."

    Means that you haven't seen him for a long time and when you say that you still haven't seen him.....

    However the third sentence you say when you have meet him after a long period

    Am I correct ????
     

    coconutpalm

    Senior Member
    Chinese,China
    I would add to "last" to 1 and 3 if I were to say them.
    But I still can't see why 2 and 4 are right.

    I haven't seen you since last month.
    I have seen you twice.
    I have been seeing all the time!

    I think they are all correct, but without "since last month", "twice", or "all the time", it simply makes no sense, to ME.
    Please help me!
     

    Kat LaQ

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Sorry, but no, I must insist that only #4 is correct. You need the auxiliary verb "have" in both parts of the sentence:

    It has been (It's been) a long time
    since I have (I've) seen you.

    And yes, you say this when you see a person after a long period of not seeing them. Now they are in front of you again and you do see them.

    People do say #3, but it is NOT correct.
     

    roniy

    Senior Member
    ISRAEL: Fluent Hebrew ( Speak Russian, Learning English)
    But what I still don't understand is
    "It's a long time ..."

    It looks like the long time is still in progress maybe it should be like
    "It's a long time that I haven't seen/didn't see you"
    Does it mean the same

    and how

    "It's a long time ..." and "It's been a long time"

    Can express the same period of time ?????

    Is it possible to say
    "It's a long time ..."
    like when you are on the phone with this person and even after this time you are not going to meet him and maybe you are deciding to meet some when in the future .

    However, "It's been a long time" is when you have just met the person you see him and you say it ?????

    Is it correct?
    Thanks.
     

    Kat LaQ

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Dear pieanne,

    What bothers me in fact is (first) the use of the present perfect after "since",
    Here are some examples for you:

    Since you've been gone, I cry every night. (Past Perfect of verb to be)
    Since you were gone:cross: - this is a correct construction but uses a different meaning of since (=because)! Since you were gone, I walked home from the party by myself.

    Since he has (he's) been exercising, he has (he's) lost a lot of weight. (Past Perfect of verb to be)
    Since he was exercising :cross: Same as above. Since he was exercising 5 times a week, he figured he could eat more and not gain weight.

    Since you went away, life is not the same. (Past of verb to go)

    We never see them anymore since they bought that house in the country. (Past of verb to buy)

    Hmmm, I think I see the pattern. It's the verb to be that demands the past perfect after since (with this particular meaning of since). Other verbs are OK with the simple past. I don't know if that's how the grammar books would write the rule, but I hope it helps clarify.
     

    Kat LaQ

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Google:

    It's a long time: 300,000
    It's been a long time: 4,700,000

    Just to lend a little weight to my argument :D
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    Kat LaQ said:
    Dear pieanne,



    Here are some examples for you:

    Since you've been gone, I cry every night. (Past Perfect of verb to be) I guess you mean Present Perfect? :S
    Since you were gone:cross: - this is a correct construction but uses a different meaning of since (=because)! Since you were gone, I walked home from the party by myself.

    Since he has (he's) been exercising, he has (he's) lost a lot of weight. (Past Perfect of verb to be) I guess you mean Present Perfect? :S
    Since he was exercising :cross: Same as above. Since he was exercising 5 times a week, he figured he could eat more and not gain weight.

    Since you went away, life is not the same. (Past of verb to go)

    We never see them anymore since they bought that house in the country. (Past of verb to buy)

    Hmmm, I think I see the pattern. It's the verb to be that demands the past perfect after since (with this particular meaning of since). Other verbs are OK with the simple past. I don't know if that's how the grammar books would write the rule, but I hope it helps clarify.
    "Since you've been gone"
    I perfectly get the meaning/feeling, but I'd be tempted to say "since you left"

    "Since he's been exercising" Same as above, but I'd say "Since he started exercising"...

    Now my question is: "Are there cases when the present perfect is justified after 'since'...?
    (Because they sound so right to me...)
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    Kat LaQ said:
    Google:

    It's a long time: 300,000
    It's been a long time: 4,700,000

    Just to lend a little weight to my argument :D
    Oh, I do agree with you: "It's a long time since..." sounds weird.

    What I'm looking for is a grammatical explanation!!!

    [Aarrgghh... desperate house grammarian!]
     

    marget

    Senior Member
    pieanne said:
    Oh, I do agree with you: "It's a long time since..." sounds weird.

    What I'm looking for is a grammatical explanation!!!

    [Aarrgghh... desperate house grammarian!]
    I think I figured out the reason why "It's a long time since is wrong"
    If we undo the contraction, we get "it is a long time since"... We can't say that!
     

    marget

    Senior Member
    pieanne said:
    Let me check...
    It says it's with the collaboration of R. Butler, B.A. (Cantab), MA (Manchester), Ph. D...
    Butler sounds like a native speaker. I wonder what "collaboration" means? So it's a grammar of Englsh written in English?
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    No, it's written in French, by S. Berland - Delépine, with the collaboration of you know who (I'm a fan of Harry Potter!)

    It's "la grammaire anglaise au lycée"
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    Kat LaQ said:
    Sorry, but no, I must insist that only #4 is correct. You need the auxiliary verb "have" in both parts of the sentence:

    It has been (It's been) a long time
    since I have (I've) seen you.
    Hi, Kat. Can you site a source for this conclusion? It sounds right here, but it also sounds OK to me to say "It's been a long time since I saw a good movie." Would your rule apply to that sentence as well? Because it sounds odd to me to say "It's been a long time since I've seen a good movie."

    Thanks,
    Elisabetta
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    And if we replace "a long time" by, say, "2 years"?

    It's (?) it's been (?) 2 years since I saw (?) have seen (?) a good film...

    Would it change anything?
     

    moodywop

    Banned
    Italian - Italy
    pieanne said:
    Then why does my grammar say it's correct?

    Double Aarrgghh!!!
    A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (by Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech & Svartvik) is probably the most authoritative academic grammar of English around. It regards all your examples as correct:

    "Backward span is elicited by such questions as How long is it since you...?"

    It is ages since she was (last) here
    It is ages since she's been here
    It is a long time since I saw him

    He's been getting headaches since 1. he has been in the army
    ---------------------------------------2. since he joined the army
    ---------------------------------------3. since he was in the army

    [In (1) he must still be in the army 'now'; in (3) he cannot still be in the army; in (2) he may or may not still be in the army]

    CGEL, Longman (1985)

    However, there is clearly disagreement about the acceptability of some of the examples even among speakers of a single variety of English (AE).
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    marget said:
    I think I figured out the reason why "It's a long time since is wrong"
    If we undo the contraction, we get "it is a long time since"... We can't say that!
    I'm not sure why. Many people, and many respected sources, include "It's a long time since ..." or "It's xxx years since ..."

    In fact, Google will report more hits from UK sites for "it is two years since" (970) than for "it has been been two years since" (331). Widen the search and the balance swings the other way (24,200/83/500), suggesting that "it is two years since" is more favoured in BE. I know not to rely on Google, but the numbers are indicative.

    I can't shake the sense of the it is form being old, nor can I trace the elusive quotation from some probably ancient and reputable source that is teasing the edges of my memory.
     

    MrPedantic

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    1. It's a long time since I saw you.
    2. It's a long time since I've seen you.
    3. It's been a long time since I saw you.
    4. It's been a long time since I've seen you.

    It seems to me that the present perfect has a "news-making" sense, in such examples. So I would say:

    In #1, the speaker states a simple fact. You might use it in a letter.

    In #2, the speaker expresses a connection to the present. You might use it when face to face.

    In #3, the speaker brings the length of time into focus. That's what he wants to express.

    In #4, the speaker again brings the length of time into focus, but the "seeing you" is also currently relevant: perhaps they are face to face.

    (But no doubt the usual AmE/BrE differences in the use of the present perfect apply here; so the "face to face" distinction in #2 and #4 may seem like gibberish to some speakers.)

    MrP
     

    MrPedantic

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    panjandrum said:
    I can't shake the sense of the it is form being old, nor can I trace the elusive quotation from some probably ancient and reputable source that is teasing the edges of my memory.
    I have the same sense: I dimly associate the phrase with the opening paragraph of a tale by Poe or Wells or Conan-Doyle or some such author, but can't quite place it.

    This turns up in Poe's Eiros and Charmion, though that isn't the context I'm thinking of:

    "...It is now ten earthly years since I underwent what you undergo, yet the remembrance of it hangs by me still..."

    MrP
     

    pieanne

    Senior Member
    Belgium/French
    Thank you, MrP and all the others... :)
    If my grammar gives #1 as the only possibility, no wonder it sound old to you natives...
    I still feel reluctant to use "since" + present perfect, but I guess that's an example of what tells a native from a non-native [sob, sob].

    I think I'll settle for "It's been a long time since I (last) saw you". :)

    I feel much better now...
     

    MrPedantic

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    <If my grammar gives #1 as the only possibility, no wonder it sounds old to you natives...>

    I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply "old and no longer in use": rather, "not new".

    MrP
     

    cheshire

    Senior Member
    Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
    (X) Have you seen any movie stars since you've been living here?
    (Y) It's been a long time since you've been living here.

    (Z) It's a long time since you've been living here.
    Hi, could you tell me if these sentences are OK?
    Thank you!:)
     

    Sanvitense

    New Member
    Spanish - Costa Rica
    I think # 4 is the only "grammatically correct" one. I totally agree with Kat LAQ.

    Present perfect gives the idea of sequence, you've seen the person several times.

    Simple past was a specific moment in time in which the action happened. I saw you yesterday at the park"

    It is important to mention that what is "grammatically correct", is not necessarily what native speakers use. So option 3 might be heard, but again, it is not accepted now, in 2009. Languages evolve and maybe in the future the usage might change.

    So,

    4. It's been a long time since I've seen you.

    Regards,
     

    iconoclast

    Senior Member
    english - anglo-irish
    It's an idiomatic quagmire. The four original possibilities are perfectly natural and normal in everyday speech, although the Standard rule is normally [present perfect + ['since' + past]]. Of course, if you're addressing the person directly, it's common to say "Long time, no see".
     

    marcin k

    Senior Member
    Poland, polish
    Having read all the posts in the thread, I think 'since' might have two slightly different meanings when used with the Past Simple and the Present Perfect tenses. If 'since' is followed by Present Perfect, it seems (to me), in most cases, to imply negative meaning, even though the sentence is affirmative, like in this one:
    It's a long time since I've smoked. = I haven't smoked for a long time.
    Here the word 'since' seems to be synonymous with 'for', hence it means 'over a length of time'.
    If used with Past Simple, 'since' merely shows a starting moment/event for a period of time, so here it simply points rather than spans over a length of time:
    I have smoked 3000 cigarettes since we last saw.
    With this meaning, it is not synonymous with 'for', I can't think of any equivalent sentence giving just the same information and containing 'for' instead of 'since'.
    Anyway, that's how I see it.
     

    Saurabh

    Senior Member
    English-British, Hindi
    Thanks everybody who have posted answers!
    However, I have got to say that I've still been waiting for that post which puts this thread into a meaningful and short conclusion which does not seem to have been reached so far.:)
    Let us hope to get one!
     

    panjandrum

    Occasional Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Thanks everybody who have posted answers!
    However, I have got to say that I've still been waiting for that post which puts this thread into a meaningful and short conclusion which does not seem to have been reached so far.:)
    Let us hope to get one!
    From my recollection of the thread, that would be very difficult.
    Different views have been expressed.
    What is considered acceptable depends on where you are and on the context.
    If I were to present a meaningful and short conclusion, it would be my perspective (already expressed above) and that is no more correct than the perspectives set out by others.

    Why don't you have a go yourself :)
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    [...]It's a long time since I've smoked. = I haven't smoked for a long time.
    Here the word 'since' seems to be synonymous with 'for', hence it means 'over a length of time'.
    I'm not happy with your conclusion here, Marcin.

    For in this case doesn't, in my view, mean over a length of time, but rather over the period starting at a point indicated and terminating at the present moment.

    I haven't smoked for a long time means that the period between now and the moment when you last smoked is long.

    The form of words you used suggested to me that we were dealing with a period of time in general, not one where the beginning and end are precise.
     

    Macunaíma

    Senior Member
    português, Brasil
    I have always been intrigued by these constructions with <<there to be (time) since (action) >> too and this is one of the most interesting threads I have read here on WR!

    I quite like the explanation given on the BBC link posted by ronyi on post #18. I think it offers a nice summary of what's been discussed here:

    Q: I am eating pasta again after a long time:
    • It's been a long time since I had pasta.
    Or is this better?
    • It's been a long time since I have had pasta.
    A: Both of these examples are perfectly correct. If you use the simple past tense, since I had pasta, you are thinking at that moment of the last time you ate it. If you use the present perfect tense, since I have had pasta, you are thinking of the gap in time since you last ate it.
     

    tigerduck

    Senior Member
    German / Switzerland
    I know this thread is old, but I think I can answer the main questions. I work as an English teacher (but English is not my native language) and I've had these questions too. This is what I've found out:

    1) It's been a long time since... / it's a long time since...

    According to English Grammar in Use (by Raymond Murphy) and Practical English Usage (by Michael Swan) (both British Grammar books, I believe), you can use it's a long time since or it's been a long time since.

    English Grammer in Use: "We say 'It's (a long time / two years etc.) since something happened." "You can also say 'It's been (= it has been)... since...'"

    Practical English Usage: "In sentences with since, we normally use present perfect and past perfect tenses in the main clause." "However, present and past tenses are also occasionally found." "This often happens in the structure It is/was... since..."

    I believe the form It's a long time since is common use in British English, but not in the US. I personally prefer It's been a long time since.

    Conclusion: Both the present perfect and the present simple are correct, at least in British English.

    English Grammar in Use also includes the phrase How long is it since as a common phrase.


    2) It's (been) a long time since I saw/have seen you.

    According to the BBC website that roniy cited earlier in this thread (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv174.shtml), both forms are correct with a slightly different meaning:

    a) It's (been) a long time since I saw you. (= the speaker is thinking of the last time he/she saw you)
    b) It's (been) a long time since I've seen you. (= the speaker is thinking of the gap in time since he/she last saw you)

    You'll find an example with eating pasta on the BBC website, but you'll need to scroll down for quite a bit.

    According to Practical English Usage, "the tense in the since-clause can be perfect or past, depending on the meaning." However, the examples in Practical English Usage are a bit different. There, the verb in the past simple is one that refers to a specific point in time and the one in the present perfect refers to a period until now.
    For example: I've known her since we were at school together. / I've known here since I've lived in this street.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    [...]I believe the form It's a long time since is common use in British English, but not in the US. I personally prefer It's been a long time since.

    Conclusion: Both the present perfect and the present simple are correct, at least in British English.

    [...]
    It's a long time since + present perfect is familiar to most native speakers, I suspect.

    There are numerous examples in this thread.

    It's a long time since + simple past is also very familiar, and

    there are numerous examples in this thread.

    It's a long time since + simple present, such as you advocate, Tigerduck, is not familiar to me. Could you give us some examples, please?
     
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