1. It is four years since our family has had a vacation.
  2. It has been four years since our family has had a vacation.

What is the difference between these two sentences? And why is sentence 1 even correct, since we usually use the construction "has been+since/for"? I checked a similar question on this site, but that question doesn't tell the difference and doesn't tell why #1 is correct.


1 Answer 1


This is yet another one of those situations where usage has changed over time...

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Offhand I can't think of any context where it actually makes any difference which verb form you use in this context. And I must admit it seems somewhat counter-intuitive that English increasingly favours the more complex construction. But there it is - it's essentially a stylistic choice.

I'm not quite sure how to explain why Present Tense is okay here - to me, it's so obviously natural I find it hard to think of needing to justify the usage. But perhaps it would help to compare, say,...

Come and get it! Your breakfast is cooked
...Your breakfast has been cooked

  • The reason it has changed may be that saying “It is three years...” puts people in the wrong frame of mind for the rest of the sentence. “It has been three years...” makes it easier to guess what the rest of the sentence is about so we can tune out and go back to reading Twitter ;)
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:25
  • If that's supposed to "explain" why people prefer the perfect form, how do we account for the fact that people obviously didn't think like that until a century ago? Actually, I've just realised that I accidentally linked to the NGram chart for the American corpus. Switching to the British corpus, it seems we haven't even yet reached the "tipping point" that happened in the US before WW2. Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:31
  • I don’t think your ngram is giving you the full story (not my downvote btw) the instances are not the same construction, They’re more like ...that is, years since Mohammad's flight from Mecca in 622 C.E. It might be better to use something like “it is years since” The search for it is * since is interesting.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:46
  • 1
    Maybe whoever did downvote was following the same reasoning as you. I never thought the number of false matches would be significant here (that would imply an even more curious "usage change over time" than the simple one being investigated here. Anyway, I've added it to the front of my search strings to eliminate practically all false matches, and switched to "combined" corpus". The chart still looks much the same, so there's no reason to change any of the text. Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 16:54
  • The matches look a lot better. I think it’s likely someone looked at the first few matches of the previous search and saw they didn’t match and that caused the DV.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 17:04

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