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 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’. The reason for this 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’. 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 for John for three years’. Again you would use the present tense in Italian, because the person is still working for John at the present time. In Italian you would literally say ‘I work for John since three years’.

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‘.

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 abiti a Londra? = How long have you lived here in London? [Literally: Since how much time you live in London?]

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.


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

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