I came across this conversation "Are we going out now?" "Not for a long time yet".

When I asked some persons the meaning "Not for a long time yet", one say it means "We are not going out yet. It will be a long time before we go out.", and one say it means "We won't be leaving for a while."

They say "We aren't going out now" but the term is different like "for a long time" and " not for a long time(for a while). Which is correct? Or do "for a long time" and "for a while" mean the same term?

3 Answers 3


Not for a long time yet.

By definition, yet as used here means:

4) at some future time; sooner or later

but it is not time specific. So you have to look for another term for the time frame, in your examples "a while" or "a long time", whatever they mean in context. yet just emphasizes that it hasn't happened yet. It does not really add anything pertinent in your example. I would leave it out -

Not for a long time.
Not for a while.

  • Thank you for your answer. That is to say, it means "Not yet" and "for a long time" is extra. Apr 23, 2016 at 5:24
  • They can be. But the meaning of "Not for a long time." and "Not yet." are not the same (the first indicates a long time in the future, the second just in the future).
    – user3169
    Apr 23, 2016 at 5:30
  • I think first this "not" in this phrase is negative for "for a long time", so I think it means "We should stay here for a short time" but it means "We should stay here for a long time". Is my understanding right? Apr 23, 2016 at 5:41
  • 1
    "not" refers back to the previous verb and negates it; "going" in your original example. "(We are) not (going out) for a long time/yet".
    – user3169
    Apr 23, 2016 at 6:22

The easier way to understand the phrase is to put "for a long time" in a bracket as follows:

Not (for a long time) yet.

"Not yet" is broadly used to mean that something has not happened (is not happening) until the present time, e.g.:

A: Has he arrived? B: Not yet (He has not arrived yet).

For a long time is just a prepositional phrase to indicate this will not happen for a long time. The answer means,

We are not going out yet and we won't be able to go out for a long time.

  • 1
    @YuuichiTam My pleasure. It really helps you if you put a prepositional phrase in a parentheses and try to understand the sentence without it. Then, include it in a sentence to get the full picture.
    – user24743
    Apr 23, 2016 at 5:59

You've given us an interesting phrase to parse.

Are we going out now?
No, not for a long time yet.


No, not yet – and we probably won't for a long time.

It's almost as if the word not is being used distributively. So, semantically:

Not for a long time yet = Not⋅(for a long time + yet) = Not yet + Not for a long time

However, this isn't always the case! Contrast the phrase you're asking about with this very similar one:

Have you heard from John lately?
No, not for a long time now.

This simply means:

As of right now, I haven't heard from John in quite some time.

So, semantically:

Not for a long time now = (Not for a long time) + (now) = As of right now + not for a long time

Going back to your original dialog, had the person responded with a slightly different answer:

Are we going out now?
No, not just yet.

That typically means:

No, not yet – but we probably will in just a little bit.

As for this last one you asked about:

Are we going out now?
No, not for awhile yet.

the phrase "for awhile" means "for quite some time." (It's a tough amount of time to quantify, but, if someone told me that, I'd probably might want to find something else to do, because I'll probably get fidgety if I wait that long.)

NOTE: Many of these phrases are somewhat idiomatic, and word order is important.

  • Thank you for your answer. My English level isn't high, so I couldn't understand all you explained. That is to say, does "Not for a long time yet" mean "(We are) not (going out) for a long time yet."? Apr 23, 2016 at 12:21
  • 1
    @YuuichiTam - I think you've parsed it correctly and understand the meaning.
    – J.R.
    Apr 23, 2016 at 23:41

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