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My teacher is wondering whether all three sentences below could mean virtually the same. This idea that "since I used to visit" and "since I have visited" might mean the same partly comes from the following part of one forum: (Too see the whole forum thread, please, see the link below)

1) It's been a long time since I've swung a golf club.
2) It's been a long time since I've been to Augusta.
The present perfect implies that the action is something that is repeatable. The speaker has probably swung a golf club or been to Augusta more than once.

Here is the link to the website.

1) It has been a long time since I visited you (at the hotel).
2) It has beeen a long time since I used to visit you (at the hotel).
3) It has been a long time since I have visited you (at the hotel).

  • I think your teacher is correct about the implication, with the present perfect, that the speaker had been to Augusta more than once. We'd probably choose simple past if it had been a one-time thing. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 21 '16 at 19:07
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1) It has been a long time since I visited you (at the hotel).

I visited you at some (distant) point in the past.

2) It has been a long time since I used to visit you (at the hotel).

In the past I visted you on a regular basis, maybe once a week. At some (distant) point in the past, I broke with that habit.

3) It has been a long time since I have visited you (at the hotel).

I visisted you at some (distant) point in the past. I probably have visted you more than once, but that doesn't mean it was a habit.

So, yes, 2) and 3) could have a similar meaning, but 2) really draws attention to the fact that the visiting was happening on a regular, habitual basis, and it is the habit that stopped a long time ago.

Just for illustration, let's look at a different example.

Suppose I used to live in city A, but I have now moved to another place. While I lived in city A, I visted a certain restaurant once. Also, I was a regular at a bar (I was there almost every day). There was a cinema too. I went there a couple of times, but I'm no great fan of the cinema.

Now, after some years, I could say:

It's been a long time since I visted that restaurant. It was a really great experience though, maybe I should go back there some day.

It's been a long time since I used to frequent that bar. Nowadays I just drink alone, at home...

It's been a long time since I have been to that cinema. I don't know if that nice girl still works there.

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  • @oerkelensThank you. Please how much the sentence number three differs from the first one? This use of present perfect is new to me. You told me that the sentence number three doesn´t have to mean that I visited somebody more than once. What does the sentence number three with present perfect emphasise unlike the first one using the simple past? EDIT: Could I use the third sentence even if I had visited you only once? – user36394 Jul 21 '16 at 13:56
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    Sentence three, as your source in your question says, means that you probably visited more than once. But that doesn't mean you visted regularly. The main difference between 2) and 3) is that 2) focuses on stopping the habit of visting, whereas 3) focuses on the long time since the last visit. – oerkelens Jul 21 '16 at 14:04
  • +1. #2 (since I used to visit) refers vaguely to the period of time that encompassed the recurrent visits. To my ear it's marginal. I think native speakers would tend to break the sentence up and use "then" as the anchor. I used to visit him back in the day. It's been a long time since then. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 21 '16 at 19:09
  • Native speakers nowadays. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 21 '16 at 20:51
  • @oerkelens Thank you very much for such an amazing help! Could I say "What have you learnt since you have come?" Do you understand it correctly that here "have come" would not signalize his often visiting of something but it would emphasise that the person is still there - he is still "come"? – user36394 Jul 22 '16 at 21:20
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The grammar construction (structure, it is denoted in many grammars) IT'S (BEEN) + DAYS / WEEKS / MONTHS / etc. + SINCE is used to emphasise the length of time that has passed since a past event. The strict grammatical logic behind this construction determines the use of the Past Indefinite Tense in the SINCE clause of the construction.

Strictly speaking, the construction it has been a long time since has nothing to do with the grammar of the previous construction. Because, they are different in many essential elements of their semantics and grammar.

Any complex syntactical structure needs to be parsing with its main clause. Both discussions are lack completely of such essential step. The main clause it has been a long time consists of it- impersonal structure in the Present Perfect Tense + the linking verb be + Noun Phrase with the Head Word, the noun, a time. In its turn, NP consists of long (adjective) and a time (noun, singular). The category of the noun a time gives the exact meaning for the noun which is a period of time, either long or short, during which you do something or something happens.

The category of the noun a time is not the category of the noun time having the sense of something measured in days, weeks, months etc. as it is in the first mentioned construction here. That is why the category of the noun a time used in the construction makes it possible to use much more grammar tenses and constructions than the Past Indefinite Tense only.

Taking into account the sense of the noun a time, we can conclude that the subordinate clause with the conjunction since is not typical for such grammar construction because of semantical problems. It is better to use subordinate clause that can attribute the main clause to some complete meaning with some information about what somebody did during this undefined a long time or what happened during a long time. This is a possible view for a grammarian who is making conclusions on logic. But, it is other situation for a user of conversational speech with some known or presupposed contexts. So we have here the contradiction between the so called grammatical logic and the so called natural language. To put it simply, the examples have no contexts that may explain for a student how to build subordinate clauses. Any of the options could be taken as right or wrong. And be backed up by numerous examples from the natural spoken language. Without specifying implied contexts.

There are the grammar constructions of the type as it is/was a long time since NP in BrE, and it has been a long time since NP in AmE. NPs function in the adverbial prepositional phrase in both constructions. There is such syntactic structure as cleft sentences with preparatory it that is used for emphasising some parts of sentences, which having the syntactic form of it is/was ...that.

Analysis of these syntactic constructions, while taking into account earlier conclusions, allows reasonably to believe that in the case of OP's examples we should deal with them as if they were the varieties of cleft sentences in order to observe the requirements of the grammatical logic.

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