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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Difference between "for..." and "during..."    

Difference between "for..." and "during..."


Difference between "for..." and "during..."
Could someone please explain the difference between "for the past few years..." and "during the past few years..."

21 Apr 2017      


Wow...difficult - for me at least ;-)))
I usually use the question words : How long ? = for ;  When ? = during.
eg : How long have you been working ? - For the past few years. ( I might not have always worked in this period of time...)
       When ? - During the past few years. ( period of time : I īve worked from beginning to end...)
Not quite sure about this !!
I īll check the answers to your message - then ;-))) Sorry for not being very helpful !

21 Apr 2017     

United States

Sometimes being quick is more useful than being completely right. You knew that others would contribute after you, so that your answer wouldn īt be the only one, so it īs a good thing. Prepositions are difficult in every language, so explaining them is never easy.
First of all, we don īt often use the expression "during the past few years". There īs definitely nothing wrong with it, but its meaning is very specific, so it isn īt all that useful. "During" is used to describe something that happens within a specified time period, with an emphasis on "within", when used with a period of time, or "at the same time as" when used with an event.
During the Civil War, women in the US wore hoop skirts. ("During" here means that the fashion happened at the same time as the war, although in this case it wasn īt limited to exactly that time.
During my lecture, two students in the back were looking at their phones.
Please visit me during my office hours. (within my office hours)
During the past few years, I īve had two periods of unemployment. (within that time period). I can īt say "for the past few years", because I wasn īt unemployed that whole time.
During the past few years, that country has had three revolutions. (within the period)
For the past few years, that country has been very unsettled. (over the whole period)

21 Apr 2017     


Tnank you, Bruce : very clear, useful....and kind ;-))
Have a nice Sunday,

23 Apr 2017     


Yes - I also teach my students to think about the difference between "during" as a section of time and "for" as the whole time. I usually draw a timeline on the board and colour in a section for "during" or the whole block for "for."
My friend came to stay during the summer holidays. (Maybe he came for 3 days, or a week.)
My friend came to stay for the summer holidays. (I hosted him for 8 weeks!) 

23 Apr 2017