Da Quanto Tempo

In Italian when you say that you have been doing something, unlike English in Italian you use the present tense, for example:

  • Studio qui da due anni = I’ve been studying here for two years. [Literally: I study here since two years].

This page will clear up any misunderstandings you have about its usage and explain the reasoning behind the rules, so read on!

Why use the Present Tense?

It is important to recognise first of all that in certain situations in English we use the past tense, whereas in Italian we would use the present tense. This is the case when an action started in the past, but is still continuing. In Italian this means that the action is still ongoing and therefore falls within the present, rather than in the past.

Saying how long someone has been doing something

In Italian whenever you want to say or ask how long someone has been doing something, you usually should use the present tense. Common situations where you need to use the present tense in Italian where you would use the past in English are:

  • Where you want to ask or say how long someone has been studying or learning something. The reason for this is the person is still studying or learning at present.
  • Where you want to ask or to say how long someone has been living somewhere. The reason for this is the person is still living there.
  • Where you want to ask or to say how long someone has been working somewhere or for someone. The reason for this is the person is still working for that company/person.
  • Where you want to ask or say how long someone has been doing a hobby. The reason for this is the person is still doing that hobby.

Examples of this are:

  • In English we might say ‘I have been studying Italian for five years’. Although in English we use the past tense, in Italian we would literally say ‘I study Italian since five years’ = Studio l’italiano da cinque anni. The reason for the present tense being used is the person is still studying at the present time.
  • In English we might say ‘I have been living in London for ten years’. Again despite us using the past tense in English, you must use the present tense in Italian. In Italian you would literally say ‘I live in London since ten years’ = Abito a Londra da dieci anni. The reason for this is the person is still living in London at the present time. It is therefore a continuing action.
  • In English we might say ‘I have been working here for three years’. Again you would use the present tense in Italian, because the person is still working here at the present time. In Italian you would literally say ‘I work here since three years’ = Lavoro qui da tre anni.

Essentially when you talk about how long you have been doing something and you are still doing it you always use the present tense together with the word ‘da‘ which in this context means ‘since‘.

Asking how long someone has been doing something

By contrast when you want to ask how long someone has been doing something (and they still do the activity) you use ‘Da quanto tempo…?‘ (literally: Since how much time…?) plus the present tense, for example:

  • Da quanto tempo studi l’italiano? = How long have you been studying Italian? [Literally: Since how much time you study Italian?]
  • Da quanto tempo abiti a Londra? = How long have you been living here in London? [Literally: Since how much time you live in London?]
  • Da quanto tempo lavori qui? = How long have you been working here? [Literally: Since how much time you work here?]

Even though in English we do not use the present tense in this context, you must in Italian. The reason why is because in Italian if you continue to do the thing talked about you are seen as still doing it, hence why the present tense is used.


Additional Help is available

I hope that the above has helped you to understand how Italians use ‘Da quanto tempo?’.

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