This post is part of the series Warming up for El Día E: Posts to Improve Your Spanish. El Día E is a world-wide celebration of the Spanish Language that will take place on June 23th, 2012.
Posts in this series to celebrate El Día E:
1. Join the Celebration of El Día E
2. To Ask for Something or To Ask a Question: PEDIR and PREGUNTAR
3. The Spanish Words for TO KNOW: SABER versus CONOCER
4. The Many Ways to Move in Spanish: MOVERSE, MUDARSE, TRASLADAR
5. How to Translate the Conjunction BUT to Spanish: PERO and SINO/SINO QUE
6. The Distinction Between PARECER and PARECERSE
7. Using the Verb HACER to Express Periods of Time [this post]
8. 4 Ways to Use the Preposition CON in Spanish
9. 13 Cool and Interesting Facts About the Spanish Language
Using the Verb HACER to Express Periods of Time
The verb hacer can be used to express periods of time both in the present and in the past.
Hace + a period of time + que + present or present progressive tense
Hace 3 años que estudio español (I have been studying Spanish for 3 years.)
Hace 5 años que estoy trabajando en Miami. ( I have been working in Miami for 5 years.)
It can also be used to expressed how long it has been since you did something.
Hace + a period of time + que + preterite tense
Hace 2 años que estudíe italiano. (It has been 2 years since I studied Italian.)
Important note: You should only use the preterite if you no longer do the action.
When you use hacer in the imperfect tense, you can express periods of time that occurred in the past.
Hacía 5 años que trabajaba en Miami cuando me ofreció un empleo en Nueva York. (I had been working in Miami for 5 years when I was offered a job in New York.)
It is common for non-native speakers to try to directly translate time expressions from English. For example, a student might say “He estudiado español por 3 años” when they are trying to say “I have studied Spanish for 3 years.” However, the more proper way to express this would be “Hace 3 años que estudio español.”
Check out these other articles to help you Learn Spanish.
Featured photo credit: Time by Alan Cleaver via flickr