I have not heard from him for long or for a long time.

Can I use for long and for a long time in the above sentence interchangeably? Or do these phrases have different meaning and usage?


1 Answer 1


No, the two are not interchangeable, and interestingly, they actually mean nearly opposite things. As was pointed out in a comment, there's actually a very good thread on wordreference.com on this very subject. To summarize the most important points, though:

First, "for long" can only be used in negative statements ("not ... for long"). On the other hand, "for a long time" can be used in both positive and negative statements.

When in a negative statement:

  • "(not) for long" means that the condition actually is true, but it has only been true for a short time (it has not been in the current state very long).

I did not have money for long, because whenever I got some, I always had to use it right away for necessities like food and rent.

  • "(not) for a long time" means that the condition is not true, and it hasn't been true for a while (it has not changed since a long time ago).

I did not have money for a long time, and I spent many months wondering where my next meal would come from.

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