4

I heard Matt Damon say:

Anyway, for 20 years now people ask, what happened to Loki at the end of Dogma?

How do you explain the usage of Present Simple here with 20 years? Could you reference to some rule?

Isn't it correct to say "For 20 years people have been asking..." or "Have asked..." meaning some action which began in the past and continued up to the present?

9

If this was a filmed interview, it is likely just a mistake for

People ask, and have been asking for twenty years, ...

which is perfectly good American English. When people are being interviewed on camera (and I have some experience with that), they may start to say one thing and realize that they want to qualify or expand their original thought. What then frequently happens is that neither the original nor the revised thought gets expressed correctly.

People ask for twenty years

is not idiomatic modern, American English.

People have asked for twenty years

and

People have been asking for twenty years

are idiomatic.

If you want to stress that they continue to ask today with high frequency you might say

People ask, and have [asked/been asking] for twenty years

  • So is it likely that first he wanted to say "for 20 years now people have asked (have been asking) this question" but than he changed his mind and wanted to say "People ask this question", so the end product we have: "For 20 years now people ask this question"? – Rusletov Jan 26 at 11:37
  • That sounds quite plausible. – Jeff Morrow Jan 26 at 16:23

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