In Spanish Grammar, Spanish Lessons

Typically when communicating in your second language, even if you miss a few words or use a wrong one, you can be understood.

However, sometimes small words can change the entire meaning of a sentence, so it’s important to pay closer attention to these types of words.

In Spanish, this often comes up when speaking about the past. There is quite a difference, for example, when you say, ‘I’ve been somewhere for 3 years’ vs ‘I went there 3 years ago’. And if you don’t get it right, your conversation can become very confusing very quickly.

Therefore, we’ve put together the follow list of often confused phrases so you can be sure you get it right when talking about your past experiences, how long you’ve been some where, or how long since you’ve been somewhere, etc.

Before you look at the english version, see if you can understand the exact significance of the Spanish phrase before you read the English translation.

Hace 3 años fui a España
3 years ago I went to Spain

Hace 3 años que estoy en España
I’ve been in Spain 3 years

Vivo desde el 5 de Abril en España
I’ve lived in Spain since April 5

Vivo desde hace 3 años en España
I’ve lived in Spain for 3 years

Yo llevo tres años en España
I’ve been in Spain for 3 years

Here are some example using them in question and answer format, which is where most of us get tripped up:

¿Desde cuándo estás en España?
You’ve been in Spain since when?

Desde Marzo
Since March


¿Cuanto tiempo llevas viviendo en España?
How long have you been living in Spain?

Possible answers:
Llevo 3 años (or llevo viviendo 3 años)
I’ve been in Spain 3 years (or I’ve been living in Spain 3 años)

Estoy aquí desde hace 3 años
I’ve been here for 3 years

Hace 3 años que estoy en España
I’ve been in Spain for 3 years


Make sure you noted the difference between desde and desde hace as well as the difference between hace and hace … que.

Desde vs Desde Hace

The use of desde must be followed by a specific date, like ‘March’, or ‘April 5’.  Whereas the use of desde hace requires a period of time, like ‘3 months’, or ‘3 years’.  If you think about it, it’s the same in English:  we can say, ‘I have been here since April’, but we can’t say, ‘I have been here since 3 months’.  For that you have to remove the ‘since’ or replace it with ‘for’.

Hace vs Hace Que

With hace the additional que is very important as it distinguishes whether something happened that long ago or if it has been continuing to go on.  When you just say ‘hace’ it means ‘ago’, but hace + tiempo + que … means you have been doing something for 3 years.

In general, desde hace and hace … que have very similar meanings, indicating how long something has been taking place:

Estudio español desde hace seis meses
Hace seis meses que estudio español

Both mean: I have been studying Spanish for 6 months


We hope you found this article helpful. If so please consider sharing it or like it 😉 Also, in case you missed it, our last article features more about that tricky Spanish verb llevar, which you can check out here.

Un saludo,

Hayley & Maider

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Showing 4 comments
  • Rebecca

    What if you wanted to say “for at least” + time period? E.g., “I don’t remember exactly when I moved in, but I’ve been here for at least 6 years.”

    • Happy Hour Spanish

      Hola Rebecca,

      In Spanish, if you want to say ‘at least’, we use the expression ‘por lo menos‘. There are a few options like:
      por lo menos + tiempo
      al menos + tiempo
      durante al menos + tiempo

      But we can still keep the same structure using desde hace or hace que. So for your example we might say:
      No recuerdo exactamente cuando me mudé, pero vivo aquí desde hace por lo menos 6 años.
      or …
      pero hace 6 años por lo menos que estoy aquí.

  • Will

    What about if you wanted to say “eversince”. E.g. My granny died four years ago, and I’ve been grieving eversince. I’m guessing you would say, “Mi abuela murio hace cuatro anos y me he estado afligiendo para siempre”. I think that’s right but I’m not sure.

    • Happy Hour Spanish

      Gracias Will! Good question. In this case, you want to use desde entonces or desde ese momento. Your sentence then, with a little rearranging, would be ‘Mi abuela murió hace cuatro años y desde entonces he estado afligido.

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Uses of Llevar in SpanishRhyming Spanish Catch Phrases