How to describe having completed and having NOT completed in an action over a given period of time? – grammaire expressions temps-grammatical


My main confusion is in regards to the differences between English and French when expressing the fact that something hasn’t been done in a given period of time, specifically ça fait and depuis.

For example:
‘I have been here for 3 days’ = ça fait trois jours que je suis ici

‘I have been learning french for 3 years =
ça fait trois ans que j’apprends le Français.


I haven’t seen him in a long time = ça fait longtemps que je l’ai pas vu

I haven’t played the piano in years = ça fait des années j’ai pas joué le piano

I haven’t eaten in 6 hours = ça fait six heures que j’ai pas mangé

Am I correct in supposing that the last two French translations can also be equivalent to the following English versions:

‘It’s been a long time since I’ve seen him’

‘It’s been years since I’ve played piano.’

‘Its been 6 hours since I’ve eaten.’

Simply, while there are two ways of expressing in English the fact that something hasn’t been done for a period of time, it is more natural to use a only a negative construction in French (i.e. Je l’ai pas vue depuis longtemps).
Is that correct?

This seems self evident since an expression of NOT having done something would be expressed in the negative, but the affirmative construction in English is throwing me off a little.

If any translations are in need of correcting, please don’t hesitate to do so.
Thanks in advance 🙂

Demandé par: Armaan Kapila

I think your translations are good, except that you have to add the negation in the negative form, even if journalists and advertisers today, like to omit it: It’s really a fault that alters the language, because « pas » and « point » are not negations at all: They define the smallest distance(« pas ») or the smallest object(« point »), so they mean 1 and not 0: They have to be preceded by « ne » to mean 0, so you should have written:

ça fait longtemps que je ne l'ai pas vu

Now, talking about the fact that in French we would use only the negative form to express a distance in time, I think it’s not quite true, because you can say:

ça fait 5 ans que je ne l'ai pas vu

but you can also say:

Je l'ai vu il y a 5 ans

The difference between these both expressions is that the negative form shows the duration with some insistance, meanwhile the positive form marks the distance as a simple fact.


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