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When...? or How long...?

When asks a question that is looking for a defined time in the past.

Q: When did it start raining?

A: It started raining at 10 o'clock this morning.


Q: When did you get married?

A: We got married in 2004.


Q: When did you buy those jeans?

A: I bought these jeans last week.



How long asks a question to find out the length of time the event has been happening for.

Q: How long has it been raining?

A: It has been raining for three hours.


Q: How long have you been married?

A: We have been married since 2004.


Q: How long have you had those jeans?

A: I have had these jeans for a week.


Note: When we answer a question that asks how long we can answer it using for or since.


Looking at the second example we can say:

We have been married since 2004

We have been married for seventeen years.

  • Remember that for and since cannot be used interchangeably so check our this blog post for more information on their usage:

For or since? (joannereilly.nl)




Grammar information:

Starting a question with when means we use the present simple tense.

Starting a question with how long means we use the present perfect tense.

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