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Using Le Passé Composé or Le Présent in negative sentences with ''depuis''

You have already seen that in affirmative sentences with depuis (= I have done this since/for + [date/duration]), you must use Présent indicatif in French, unlike the English Present Perfect.
See lesson Using 'depuis' (since / for) with Le Présent and NOT Le Passé Composé (prepositions of time)

But things change when it comes to negative statements (ne...pas) with depuis.
Indeed, in such cases, you will actually use Passé composé in French, as such: 

Elle n'est pas allée au cinéma depuis 1998.
She hasn't gone to the cinema since 1998.

Elle ne t'a pas vu depuis trois mois.
She hasn't seen you for three months.

Je n'ai pas fumé depuis novembre dernier.
I haven't smoked since last November.

Tu n'as pas bu d'alcool depuis cinq ans.
You haven't drunk alcohol for five years.

Here we use Passé composé because the use of the negation ne ... pas insists on the fact that the action stopped happening at the specific time mentioned (since/for) in the past. 

If we used Présent indicatif here, it would make it sound like the action "keeps on stopping" during the given length of time.

To say that a (recurring) action in the past has now stopped happening with depuis, you can also use Présent indicatif with ne ... plus (not any more) instead of ne ... pas

Tu ne bois plus d'alcool depuis cinq ans.
You haven't drunk alcohol for five years.

Je ne fume plus depuis 1998.
I haven't smoked since 1998.

 

Special case of depuis longtemps = not long vs not in a long time

Je ne vis pas en France depuis longtemps.
I haven't been living in France for long.

Je n'ai pas vécu en France depuis longtemps.
I haven't lived in France in a long time.

Il ne m'a pas parlé depuis longtemps.
He hasn't spoken to me in a long time.

Nous n'habitons pas ici depuis très longtemps.
We haven't lived here very long.

Ne ... pas + Passé composé + depuis longtemps 
OR 
Ne...plus + Présent indicatif + depuis longtemps 

not for a long time / not in ages
-> It's over and done in the past

ATTENTION:

Ne...pasPrésent indicatif + depuis longtemps = not long / not for long
-> It started a short while ago, and is still ongoing
See also Expressing for + [duration] with either pendant, durant, depuis or pour (prepositions of time)

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

Martin n'est pas arrivé depuis longtemps.
Martin hasn't been here long.


Je n'ai pas vécu en France depuis longtemps.
I haven't lived in France in a long time.


Tu n'as pas bu d'alcool depuis cinq ans.
You haven't drunk alcohol for five years.


Tu ne bois plus d'alcool depuis cinq ans.
You haven't drunk alcohol for five years.


Tu n'es pas allé en Australie depuis quelques années.
You haven't been to Australia for a few years.


Il ne m'a pas parlé depuis longtemps.
He hasn't spoken to me in a long time.


Elle n'est pas allée au cinéma depuis 1998.
She hasn't gone to the cinema since 1998.


Nous n'habitons pas ici depuis très longtemps.
We haven't lived here very long.


Je ne vis pas en France depuis longtemps.
I haven't been living in France for long.


Je n'ai pas fumé depuis novembre dernier.
I haven't smoked since last November.


Je ne fume plus depuis 1998.
I haven't smoked since 1998.


Elle ne t'a pas vu depuis trois mois.
She hasn't seen you for three months.


Q&A

Kate

Kwiziq community member

16 May 2018

1 reply

You haven't lived here long is in the B1 test

The correct answer is "Tu n'habites pas ici depuis longtemps" yet the lesson shows using the passé composé in negative sentences with "depuis" Why is the correct response in the present tense?

Chris

Kwiziq community member

17 May 2018

17/05/18

Hi Kate,


the correct use of times with depuis can be tricky. Here are the rules in a nutshell.


If stating something that has been happening for a while and still ongoing, you use depuis with the present tense:


J'habite à Paris depuis 5 ans. -- I have been living in Paris for five years (and I still live here).


In negative sentences where the action is already past, you use the passé composé:


Je ne l'ai pas vu depuis son départ. -- I haven't seen him since his departure.


You may use the present tense if you are referring to a (frequently recurring or habitual) action which stopped in the past:


Tu ne fumes plus depuis l'été dernier. -- You don't smoke anymore since last summer.


-- Chris (not a native speaker).

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

3 May 2018

3 replies

When describing past events with depuis, can you substitute Present Indicative for Imperfect?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

3 May 2018

3/05/18

Bonjour CrystalMaiden !


Could you give me a specific case ?

CrystalMaiden

Kwiziq community member

6 May 2018

6/05/18

" Par ce moment en sa vie, il était sans foyer depuis cinq journées. "

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 June 2018

13/06/18

Yes, in cases where the enunciation time is in the past, you will indeed use L'Imparfait instead of Le Présent.


However, your sentence here is not quite right: you cannot use "à cette époque de sa vie", and then talk about something that started before (depuis cinq jours).


You would use either say : 


Il était sans domicile depuis cinq jours.
OR
À cette époque de sa vie, il était sans domicile. 


I hope that's helpful!
Bonne journée !

Michael

Kwiziq community member

24 December 2017

2 replies

Instruction manque le "Ne...pas +"

Je pense que cette instruction: "Le Passé Composé + depuis longtemps OR ne...plus + Le Présent + depuis longtemps = not for a long time / not in ages -> It's over and done in the past" manque le "Ne ... Pas + " au début.

Michael

Kwiziq community member

24 December 2017

24/12/17

C'est vrai? Le passé composé nécessite le "Ne...pas" aussi?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

29 December 2017

29/12/17

Merci beaucoup Michael !

Indeed, the "ne...pas" was missing here.
Thanks to you, it's now been fixed :)

À bientôt !

abt

Kwiziq community member

1 October 2017

2 replies

depuis and Imparfait

I came across a sentence in a book where "depuis" was used along with the imparfait - can maybe you please confirm if it was used correctly? "Comme je ne faisais pas de bruit depuis un moment, maman est venue voir ce qui se passait." Merci d'avance!

Ron

Kwiziq community member

1 October 2017

1/10/17

Bonjour abt,
If I am correctly understanding your question: «Comme je ne faisais pas de bruit depuis un moment, maman est venue voir ce qui se passait.» ---> As I was quiet for a while, mother came to see what was going on. Because you indicated that this came from a book, it appears to me that the author was writing descriptive text. Also, the quietness had been going on when the mother came to see what was happening, it had begun prior to her entering the area and was continuing up until she entered. In French this is a normal use of l'imparfait and depuis.
« the action started in the past, but is still ongoing at the time we speak.
In French, you use depuis to express an ongoing duration.»
«Note that L'Imparfait is also used for descriptions, i.e. to help visualise the setting or atmosphere in which an action took place, characters, location, time frame ...
In a similar way, L'Imparfait is also used to express opinions about the past:»

J'espère que ma réponse vous aiderait.
Bonne chance et bonne continuation dans vos études en français, la langue de Molière et qui a été utilisé par le monde français depuis l’époque d’Hugues Capet

abt

Kwiziq community member

9 October 2017

9/10/17

Merci Ron! Yes, your explanation makes sense. I was just not expecting the 2 to go together.

abt

Kwiziq community member

1 October 2017

2 replies

Bonjour!

Ron

Kwiziq community member

1 October 2017

1/10/17

Bonjour abt,
Please clarify your question and resubmit.

abt

Kwiziq community member

9 October 2017

9/10/17

Sorry Ron! I pressed the enter key too quickly and before I could enter the actual question. <y question was about "depuis and Imparfait" which you answered above :)

harriet

Kwiziq community member

17 July 2017

4 replies

Le Passé Composé + depuis longtemps= not long / not for long

Maybe I've not understood this bit of the lesson, but shouldn't this say '= not in a long time' instead of '= not for long'?

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

17 July 2017

17/07/17

Hi Harriet - can you be more specific about which sentence or part of the lesson you mean?

harriet

Kwiziq community member

17 July 2017

17/07/17

Sorry, tried to put it as the question title but it was too long. It's the second to last note of the lesson: 'Le Passé Composé + depuis longtemps OR ne...plus + Le Présent + depuis longtemps = not long / not for long
-> It's over and done in the past'

Gruff

Kwiziq language super star

19 July 2017

19/07/17

Ah, yes, I see what you mean. Indeed, those cases correlate to "not for a long time". I'll get that clarified. Thanks!

harriet

Kwiziq community member

19 July 2017

19/07/17

That's okay- just wanted to make sure I'd understood it properly!

Brian

Kwiziq community member

10 July 2017

3 replies

Ne...pas + le présent + depuis longtemps

Nous ne sommes pas arrivés depuis longtemps. We have not been here for long. My question is, that since the English translation appears to imply that the action continues into the present, why is the above French sentence in le passé composé and not le présent. Like the examples: Je ne vis pas en France depuis longtemps. I have not lived in France for long. Nous n'habitons pas ici depuis très longtemps. We haven't lived here very long. This is my third attempt to get an answer. The previous answers told me to read the lesson. I have read it many times. What am I missing?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

14 July 2017

14/07/17

Bonjour Brian !

The case of "arriver" is tricky because you use "to be" in English:
Literally, the French sentence means "We haven't arrived for long", referring to the action of arriving, not being there.
Therefore, this is not an action that is still ongoing: you have stopped arriving in the past, you don't "keep" arriving.
That's why you will use Le Passé Composé here.

I hope that's helpful!
À bientôt !

steven

Kwiziq community member

28 May 2018

28/05/18

Hi Aurélie,


Could we also write "Nous ne sommes pas là depuis longtemps" as an alternative translation for "We haven't been here for long"? That way we omit the verb arriver altogether. 

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

13 June 2018

13/06/18

Bonjour Steven !


This is a correct alternative, though note that the "arriver" option is very colloquial and therefore worth remembering :)


Bonne journée !

Jason

Kwiziq community member

20 December 2016

3 replies

Clarifying using depuis in the negative

Does 'nous ne sommes pas là depuis longtemps' mean 'we have been here, but not for long', or 'we have been absent for a long time'?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

20 December 2016

20/12/16

Bonjour Jason !

The first one is correct: "We have been here but not for long.".

À bientôt !

Jason

Kwiziq community member

20 December 2016

20/12/16

Thanks Aurélie. This is super weird to me because it seems like in the Le Présent construction, it's almost like the negation applies more to the duration rather than the action.

Nous n'avons pas été là depuis 1998 means "We have not been here since 1998; or, we have been absent since 1998". Does "Nous ne sommes pas là depuis trois minutes" mean "we were absent for 3 minutes (but are now here)", or "We have been here, but not not for 3 minutes"? Or is perhaps longtemps a special case?

Thoroughly confused! Thanks for answering our questions!

Kathy

Kwiziq community member

7 May 2017

7/05/17

Hi Jason,

I'm just learning this construction too but thought I'd try and address your question.

To me, the present tense makes sense as "nous ne sommes pas là depuis longtemps" literally translates (in bad English) to "we aren't here since long". Implying we got here not long ago.

I'm certain "depuis longtemps" is a special case, and don't think "Nous ne sommes pas là depuis trois minutes" is correct. The lesson above states that If we used Le Présent with depuis, it would make it sound like the action "keeps on stopping" during the given length of time. We need to use the past tense, or the present but with "ne... plus"

Hope this helps.

Laine

Kwiziq community member

6 December 2016

5 replies

Am I wrong?

On a quiz, I answered the question, "How would you say ''Suzanne hasn't seen him since 2013.'' ?" with "Suzanne ne le voit pas depuis 2013." because, to me it is very clear that it's something on going, and is still true. The answer KwizBot gave me was that "Suzanne ne l'a pas vu depuis 2013." which would imply that perhaps or perhaps not Suzanne has seen her or him since 2013, since the action in the past is finished.

Jim

Kwiziq community member

6 December 2016

6/12/16

When you write "Suzanne ne le voit pas depuis 2013" you are not expressing "hasn't seen" you are expressing "did not see".
To express "Suzanne hasn't seen him since 2013" you have to think that you are describing a situation in the past which is complete. "Suzanne has not seen him etc" therefore I agree with "Suzanne ne l'a pas vu depuis 2013"
Hope that helps.
Alan

Andrew

Kwiziq community member

2 January 2017

2/01/17

I don't get this either and find myself agreeing with Laine. Surely if Suzanne hasn't seen him since 2013 and she still hasn't seen him then it's an action that started in the past but is still going on in the present, and hence requires the present tense?

What would "Suzanne ne le voit pas depuis 2013" translate as? Or is it meaningless in French?

Thanks for any clarification

Melody

Kwiziq community member

1 February 2017

1/02/17

Laine and Andrew- I had a similar problem with this question, and reported as a problem on the question, about 2 weeks ago. No response as yet.

I did find this on another site-

In negative sentences, depending on the meaning, depuis may be used with either the present (action still going on) or the passé composé to indicate how long something has not been going on (non-action).

If that is indeed correct, then I understand why I got the question wrong. But the Kwiz lesson does not make this distinction. And, I have know way of knowing if the explanation from the other site is correct (although in my experience it's extremely reliable- and has been around a lot longer than Kwiziq).

Meghna

Kwiziq community member

4 April 2017

4/04/17

I have the same issue with this question. I keep getting it wrong when to me the Right answer is not 'Suzanne ne l'a pas vu depuis 2013´. Suzanne HASN'Tseen him clearly means she hasn't yet seen him and hence the present tense should apply. The correct answer must be ´Suzanne ne l'a pas vu depuis 2013.´

Can the powers that be at kwizik pls clarify - I need my diamond score ! And this is one question I keep repeatedly failing at.

Kathy

Kwiziq community member

7 May 2017

7/05/17

Hm, I don't see the confusion. If anything it is directly consistent with the example given in this lesson:
Elle ne t'a pas vu depuis trois mois.
She hasn't seen you for three months.

Following this lesson, the present tense is only applicable in two cases:
1) using "ne... plus". So, "Suzanne ne le voit PLUS depuis 2013"
2) using "depuis longtemps". But this would change the meaning of this example altogether...

Does that help?

John

Kwiziq community member

29 January 2016

3 replies

Please translate "I am not going to Australia for a few years."

Does "depuis" always imply a past tense meaning so that it cannot be used in this sentence with the present tense of "aller?" Should the futur proche or the futur be used? Perhaps "Tu ne vas pas en Australie depuis quelques années, should probably avoided unless it is put in a specific context. Thanks.

Laura

Kwiziq language super star

30 January 2016

30/01/16

Bonjour John,

That's correct, depuis always indicates a meaning in the past. To talk about "for" in the future, use pendant.

You can use the present of aller, the futur proche, or the future.

Je ne vais pas en Australie pendant quelques années.
Je ne vais pas aller en Australie ...
Je n'irai pas en Australie...

"Tu ne vas pas en Australie depuis quelques années" means that you haven't gone in the last few years; it cannot have a future meaning.

John

Kwiziq community member

2 February 2016

2/02/16

Thanks Laura. It has taken me a few days to get my head around this lesson and your answer is a big help.

steven

Kwiziq community member

28 May 2018

28/05/18

Hi Laura,


Would "pour" also be acceptable here? As in, "Je ne vais pas aller en Australie pour quelques années."

Thinking...