For-Since, Ever-Never, Once-Before

Gordon Bateson

What’s the connection between the words in the title? That’s right, they are all used with the present-perfect tense. There is not really a direct Japanese equivalent of the English present perfect tense, so this grammar construction can be difficult to master for Japanese speakers. However, if you practice making sentences like those below, you will get better at using it in your conversations.

The present-perfect tense

As you may know, the present perfect tense is formed by combining the HAVE verb with the past participle of the main verb of the sentence. It is used in English to make questions and statements about a time period which started in the past and continues to the present. Questions that begin "Have you ever …" and "How long have you …" usually use the present perfect tense.


We use "for" to say how long something has been going on, and "since" to say when it started. These phrases are often used in response to a question beginning with "How long". Here’s an example conversation containing both phrases:

A: How long have you lived in Kanazawa?
B: Since I started university. How about you?
A: Me too. I’ve only lived here for a few months,
   so I don’t really know my way round yet.

Actually, people often omit the "I’ve done something for" part of the answer, and just say the duration, but if you do this you should always give more information in your answer, so that the conversation can continue easily.

A: How long have you studied English?
B: Six years, but I still can’t speak as well as I want to.
A: I know what you mean.

However, you can’t omit "since" in the same way. You always have to say quot;since", although you can omit the "I’ve done something" part, like this:

A: How long have you known Aki?
B: Since elementary school. We were in the same class in first grade.


This phrases are used to say whether or not someone has done something before. Notice that "ever" is only used in questions, and "never" usually appears only in negative answers.

A: Have you ever been to Tokyo?
B: No, never. Have you?
A: No, me neither.
    Hey, why don’t we make a plan to go there during the summer vacation?

A: Have you ever eaten natto?
B: Sure, I have it for breakfast every day.
A: Really, I’ve never tried it. What’s it like?

The most common mistake I hear my Japanese students making is to say, "I have ever done something" as an answer. Remember, that "ever" should be used only in questions.


The word "before" is sometimes added to a "have you ever" question, to check if someone is doing something for the first time.

For example, on a trip to Tokyo, you might hear a Tokyoite and a visitor having a conversation like this:

A: Have you ever been to Tokyo before?
B: No, this is my first time.
A: What do you think of it?
B: It’s so big. I spend most of the day traveling on the trains!

The word "once" is sometimes used in the answer to a "have you ever" question, to emphasize that someone has only done something once.

A: Have you ever been camping before?
B: Well, I went once when I was very small, but I don’t remember much about it except that I saw a shooting star.
A: Wow! I’ve never seen one of those.

Just for fun

To help you practice using these phrases, here are some Japanese phrases for you to translate into English, using the present perfect tense and the target words explained above.

  • オーストラリアに行った事がありますか?



  • 日本に住んで、どれぐらいですか?


  • 前にも、この温泉に来たことがありますか?


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