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I know that we use "since" when we refer to some specific event that started at some point in the past and is still continuing and "for" when we talk about the duration of the event.

So in the sentence "He has been absent since last week". We mean that he has been absent from some day in the previous week before the current week and is still absent. But why we don't use "he has been absent since last two weeks"? Technically it can be interpreted in the same way like he has been absent from some point in the previous to previous week and is still absent. But people say that we last two weeks means duration here and we should use "for" but it seems so confusing. Can someone please clear this.

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    I'd say "He has been absent since two weeks ago." Two weeks ago is a point in time, whereas the last two weeks is a duration of time. Commented 2 days ago
  • @YosefBaskin but I want to know the technical reason like last week and last two weeks means the same thing in this.context but we still don't use "since last two weeks"??
    – Virender Bhardwaj
    Commented 2 days ago
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    "last week and last two weeks means the same thing in this context": no they don't!
    – phoog
    Commented 2 days ago

9 Answers 9

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'Last week' is a fixed phrase usually implying a punctive time (albeit not fully specified) rather than a timespan.

  • They went away last week. [punctive] compare They went away yesterday/on Thursday.
  • She died last week. [punctive]
  • The final took place last week. [punctive]
  • He was away last week. [could be either punctive or durative:                                                                                             
  • He was away last week on Tuesday.
  • He was away last week; he had to take a week's leave.]                                                                                             

But '[the] last two weeks' is only used to speak of an interval (a durative usage):

  • They have been away for the last two weeks.

  • *They have been away since two weeks.

Using 'since two weeks ago' retrieves the situation somewhat, but is often clumsy.

  • ?He's had this pain seen since two weeks ago.
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    Indeed. Not only that, but in the phrase "the last two weeks", the word "the" is obligatory. It can't be "last two weeks" without "the".
    – Rosie F
    Commented 2 days ago
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    So the phrases "last week/day/month/year" can indicate the timing rather than a duration like you said "he went away last week" doesn't mean that he was away for the entire week rather it means that he went away at some point in the previous week before the current week but "THE last week/day/month/year" emphasize the entire week/day/month/year and we use "for"? And also "last two weeks/days/months/years only emphasize the duration Always?
    – Virender Bhardwaj
    Commented 2 days ago
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    @RosieF so you mean "he has been absent for last two weeks" is incorrect? And it should be "he has been absent for the last two weeks"? But why? What changes just by adding the article "the"?
    – Virender Bhardwaj
    Commented 2 days ago
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    I wouldn't use either, 405662. I'd use 'He's had this pain for two weeks.' As I believe most native speakers would. // The question mark indicates that it's suboptimal. Commented 2 days ago
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    You'd think the semantics surrounding punctive, discrete, habitual, and continuous events would have something to do with the acceptability; but it seems the reality is that last week maps to two weeks ago and not last two weeks - regardless of the aspect type - just like yesterday maps to two days ago. (It's a shame yesteryear didn't quite make it to prime time.) Notice also that since the last two X can mean beginning after the most recent two Xs finished.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented 2 days ago
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last two weeks is not a proper phrase. It needs a determiner:

The last two weeks have been nothing but trouble.

It refers to a span of time (a duration) that includes the present and cannot serve as a starting point for use with since with the present perfect.

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If the absence began a week ago, you can say

  • He has been absent since last week.
  • He has been absent for the last week.

The first denotes the point in time when the period of absence began. The second describes the length of the period of absence.

If the absence began two weeks ago, you can say

  • He has been absent since two weeks ago.
  • He has been absent for the last two weeks.

The first in each case is "he has been absent since [point in time]," where [point in time] can be a number of weeks ago, but "last week" is a special case meaning "one week ago" (or perhaps any unspecified point in time between the beginning and the end of last week; if it's Monday and the absence began on the previous Friday, you can say "last week" but you probably wouldn't say "one week ago").

The second in each case is "he has been absent for [period of time that hasn't yet ended]."

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    Also,can u please tell me why we don't use the article here in the first sentence but we use it in the second sentence like we used "he has been absent for the last week", we use "the" before "last week" but sometimes we don't use "the" before last week like "he went away last week or like here also "he has been absent since last week". It's really confusing
    – Virender Bhardwaj
    Commented 2 days ago
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    @VirenderBhardwaj because "last week" is a phrase that functions like an adverb to identify a point in time, analogous to "yesterday" or "this morning" or "next month," or indeed "last month" or "last year." But it can't be just any unit of time; you can't say *"they've been walking since last hour," for example. On the other hand, "for the last X" denotes a period of time, and X tells you the duration of the period. It can be a unit of time or a number and a unit.
    – phoog
    Commented 2 days ago
  • I thought I'd already said all this. Commented 2 days ago
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"He has been absent since last week".

since last week is a point in time.

"He has been absent for a week".

for a week is a period of time.

We often use for and since when talking about time.

for + period: a "period" is a duration of time - five minutes, two weeks, six years. For means "from the beginning of the period to the end of the period".

since + point: a "point" is a precise moment in time - 9 o'clock, 1st January, Monday. Since means "from a point in the past until now".

for and since

This is basic grammar.

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  • I know this rule but I was that we can still interpret the sentence that "he has been absent since last two weeks" as if he was absent from a day in the previous to previous week and is still absent. That would mean the same thing. But seems like native only use last week to indicate a point of time but last two weeks as a period of time
    – Virender Bhardwaj
    Commented 2 days ago
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    @VirenderBhardwaj He has been absent for the last two weeks. is a period of time and implies he is still absent. He has been absent since two weeks ago. is a point in time. You are just resisting this whole thing...
    – Lambie
    Commented 2 days ago
  • So,Since last two weeks is incorrect but since last week is correct because last week may refer to a specific point in the last week but last two weeks always implies the duration? It's so confusing, I am not resisting anything. Just saying that both can mean the same thing if you see from the perspective of someone whose first language is not English. So English is not really about rules but to get used to what each thing means and then only you can learn it
    – Virender Bhardwaj
    Commented 2 days ago
  • @VirenderBhardwaj In this case, there are rules for for and since and those things do not mean the same thing.
    – Lambie
    Commented 2 days ago
  • I understand your point that they don't mean the same thing, but in grammatical questions you weren't provided with any context and there are several things like in the articles also like we used "he has been absent for the last week" , we use "the " before " last week" but sometimes we don't use "the" before last week like "he went away last week or like here also "he has been absent since last week". It's really confusing
    – Virender Bhardwaj
    Commented 2 days ago
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Some years ago we had quite a few French and German speakers staying with us through the "Wwoofers" system (Willing Workers on Organic Farms)

They always seemed to use "since" where in local English we would use "for". When I discussed this with them they said that they did have the equivalent word for "for" in their language but did not use it in this sense.

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The subject has been absent since a point in time or for a period of time.

  • 'Last week' refers to a specific time, which could be any point in the previous week. You can use 'since' with this, but not 'for'.
  • 'The last week' refers to the whole period of the last seven days. You can use 'for' with this, but not 'since'.

The source of your confusion is that you think the number of weeks is what makes your sentence incorrect. What makes it incorrect is the mis-use of 'last' - to mean what you intended you should have said 'the week before last', 'two weeks ago', 'the week beginning on ', or something similar.

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Certainly! Let’s clarify the usage of “since” and “for” when talking about time.

Since:
We use “since” to refer to the starting point of an action or event. It indicates that something began at a specific time in the past and continues up to the present.

For example:

He has been absent since last Monday. (Correct)

It has been raining continuously since yesterday morning.” (Correct)

For:
We use “for” to talk about duration—the length of time something has been happening.

For example:

He has been absent for three days. (Correct)

I have been ill for two weeks. (Correct)

Now, let’s address your specific question about “last two weeks.” While it might seem logical to say “He has been absent since last two weeks,” it’s not idiomatic. Instead, we use “for” to express the duration:

He has been absent for two weeks. (Correct)

Remember, “since” refers to the starting point, while “for” indicates the duration. So, when discussing how long something has been happening, use “for.”

By the way, if someone is absent from a place where they should be, we can say,

He has been absent from his desk.

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“since" is used for a specific starting point in time, while "for" is used to show the duration of an action or state.

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    Commented 2 days ago
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You have described the rule correctly (use “since” with points in time; use “for” with durations), but I think you are being confused by the difference between “the week” and “week” here.

“last week” is a point in time

The phrase “last week” refers to a point in time. Even though one week is a length of time, in English when we say “last week”, without any other modifiers, we always mean it as a place in time, not a duration.

  • I have been to the cinema twice since last week
  • She has been studying for a Masters’ degree in Zoology since last year.

From the second example, you can see the general form of this rule can be used for other time periods, but the periods have to be longer than a day:

  • They’ve had that car since last year.
  • The shop has been selling cakes since last day (only because “last day” is not how we refer to times in the previous day in English)
  • The shop has been selling cakes since yesterday.

This form doesn’t work for times shorter than a day, because in standard English, people do not say things like “I went to the shops last hour” (although you may hear this in some regional British dialects).

more than one unit of time in the past: “since ~ ago”

We cannot use the “since last ~” form for any number of weeks/months/days above one. This is because once we put a count of units into the phrase to make “two weeks” we are strongly suggesting a duration, but we want to talk about time. Instead, we must use a different construction, with “ago”.

  • He’s been out of work since last two weeks
  • He’s been out of work since two weeks ago

We also don’t use the “since last ~” form for events that started less than a day in the past:

  • She’s been running since last hour
  • She’s been running since an hour ago

This second sentence is grammatically fine, but native speakers would normally state very recent events like this using a duration rather than a point in time, which brings us to…

the last week” is a duration

Generally, when you use the definite article with a time period, you are always referring to its duration. And, as you know, if you are talking about how long a current action has been happening, you use “for”.

  • He has been decorating the house for the last week.
  • She’s been running for the last hour
  • He’s been absent for the last two weeks

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