Expressing time in Spanish Hola amigos, I am here once again with a dose of Spanish, today we are going to see two small words, which have three possibilities to get you crazy.

You know that from time to time I like to give you some tips about how to use several words that many of the Spanish student get wrong, today is the turn of two words used to express time in the past.

These words are “desde”, “hace” and “desde hace”, these words are used to talk about the past, they are kind of time markers.


Expressing time in Spanish



the word in English is….AGO,

The equivalent in English is ago, but the literal translation is “it makes”

So good start we have a word in English, that always makes things easier,  the difference is in Spanish Hace always goes at the beginning of the time frame while in English goes at the end.

Have a look

Hace  2 años que empecé a estudiar español

I started to learn Spanish 2 years ago

although the literal translation will be It makes 2 years that I started learning Spanish

We could also say

Hace 2 años que estudio español

Empecé a estudiar español hace 2 años

Two different ways to say the same, but if you realize “hace” always needs to be before the time frame, even when you see in one of them we use the present and in the other the second the past.

So “hace+time”


the equivalent in English will be FOR, or a bit longer but a bit more accurate too “FOR THE LAST”

He estudiado español desde hace 2 años

I have studied Spanish for the last 2 years

Sometimes Spanish speaker use the verb “llevar”+gerund to express the same,

Llevo estudiando español 2 años

And this is more flexible as you can swap the time around the sentences, you could say

Llevo 2 años estudiando español

Llevar is quite a popular verb in Spanish to express the length of time you have been doing something.

For example

Llevo viviendo en Edimburgo 5 años

I have been living in Edinburgh 5 years

Or if you have been waiting for a friend for a while when he arrives you could say

Llevo esperando media hora, ¿por qué llegas tarde?

I have been waiting for half and hour, why are you late?


the equivalent in English is SINCE

But normally this marker goes with an specific time frame, like

Desde 1996, o desde ayer, desde el jueves pasado.

Estudio español desde 2015

I study Spanish since 2015



With one sentences we could use all the examples

If someone asks you

“¿Cuánto tiempo llevas estudiando español?” How long have you been study Spanish?

Llevo estudiando español 2 años

Estudio español desde hace 2 años

Hace 2 años que estudio español

Estudio español desde 2015


That is all for today my friends, I hope this has helped you, I know it can be really confusing,  and I hope this has cleared some doubts, but my advice it is to get used to one of the forms, as you see you can use any of them with the same purpose, and  master it, realized what you need to put behind it, if it needs and specific time, a gerund, etc….play around with it and when you feel comfortable with it move on to the next and do the same.

As a HOMEWORK I leave you a link to a quiz just in case you want to check it out if the blog has been useful, and a little video lesson I recorded for you 🙂

Enjoy, practice and…I will write to you soon.




3 Responses to “Expressing time in Spanish”

  1. Malvika

    Estoy agradesida a Ud. Los temas son muy barbaros, genial.
    Mil gracias a ayudar nos.

    Buen fin de.

    Un abrazo fuerte

  2. Paul

    Es posible responder a la pregunta”Cuánto tiempo llevas estudiando español?” – Llevo estudiando español desde hace 3 años.

    • blancadt

      Aunque muchas personas lo utilizan gramáticalmente no es correcto, el verbo llevar+gerundio no necesita un marcador de tiempo, solo el tiempo es necesario.
      Luego en tu caso sería “llevo estudiando español 3 años”, ya que da el sentido de continuidad.


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