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Is it correct that just like present perfect we do not usually use time duration as in "for two years" with past perfect tense, apart from certain fixed sentences as in lived, owned, known, etc.

EG: i had known him for ten years before he died.For this particular sentence I used "for ten years" and It is correct to use "for ten years" with this past perfect tense but generally i reckon we should not use time duration as in"for ten years with past perfect tense. Eg "I had learned to swim for ten years" here "for ten years" is confusing as it could either mean "I had been learning to swim for ten years" or "I had learned to swim ten years ago" so its better to use "for ten years" with past progressive tense as in "He had been learning to swim for ten years before he left for UK" 

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    Could you add an example? It would really help clear up what you mean. (By this I mean an example of a correct sentence and and incorrect sentence by your terms).
    – Buzzyy
    Feb 21 at 14:29
  • @Buzzy i had known him for ten years before he died.For this particular sentence I used "for ten years" and It is correct to use "for ten years" with this past perfect tense but generally i reckon we should not use time duration as in"for ten years with past perfect tense. Eg "I had learned to swim for ten years" here "for ten years" is confusing as it could either mean "I had been learning to swim for ten years" or "I had learned to swim ten years ago" so its better to use "for ten years" with past progressive tense as in "He had been learning to swim for ten years before he left for UK" Feb 21 at 14:52
  • @BilalZafar - Your comment's example makes everything much clearer. Can you work your comment back into the question?
    – EllieK
    Feb 21 at 15:56
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    @EllieK yes sure. i have addes that comment's example back into the question now. Feb 21 at 16:56
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    It's not a perfect match to your question but the answer does provide several good examples of ago vs for. For more examples search ELL for years ago vs for years. Does this answer your question? Does "That bridge has been repaired for the past ten years." mean the repairs were completed 10 years ago?
    – EllieK
    Feb 22 at 13:38

1 Answer 1

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I think you're searching for a special rule that doesn't exist. In any sentence, the tense has to agree with the time period you're describing.

For 10 years puts a time boundary around an activity or process. It can apply to the past, to the present or to the future. The second part of the sentence clarifies that (or makes it ambiguous). The phrase can also transform a one-time event into a recurring event that happens continually over a period of time.

For example, For 10 years I learned to swim means you spent 10 years learning how to swim.

When you say, For 10 years, he got the car fixed, it turns the one-time event of fixing the car into an event that repeated over and over during a 10-year period.

Here, the second part of the sentence clarifies the time period and the tense is adjusted accordingly:

For 10 weeks, I studied really hard. (past)

For 10 weeks, I have studied really hard. (past including the present)

For 10 weeks, I'll be studying really hard. (future)

"Last" and "next" can be used to help clarify how recent the time period is:

For the last 10 weeks.... (past or (past + present))

For the next 10 weeks.... (future)

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