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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 + [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 has 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 has stopped happening in the past 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

Learn more about these related French grammar topics

Examples and resources

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.


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.


Micro kwiz: Using Le Passé Composé or Le Présent in negative sentences with ''depuis''
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Q&A

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.

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

1 reply

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 !

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

2 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.

Andy

Kwiziq community member

28 January 2016

1 reply

Martin n'est pas arrivé depuis longtemps.

This is also a tricky example to comprehend because here arriver is translated as having the same meaning as être. Would it be possible to see a translation of "Martin n'arrive pas depuis longtemps." to compare the difference the tense makes (for clarification) please?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

29 January 2016

29/01/16

Bonjour Martin,

The tricky issue here is that you can't use the verb "to arrive" the same way as we use "arriver" in French. In this context, you'd rather use "to be" in English, however you need to remember that "arriver" in French is more of a process (i.e. in bad English it would be closer to "Martin hasn't got/arrived there for long").
Therefore, here, the process of "getting there" IS finished in the past, and NOT ongoing in the present: that's why you need to use Le Passé Composé.

FYI, "Martin n'arrive pas depuis longtemps." would give a very weird "Martin hasn't been getting there for long.", giving the impression that he's still in the process of arriving!

I hope that's helpful!

Andy

Kwiziq community member

28 January 2016

3 replies

Is the following a correct way to approach this?

Depending on the context, I really struggled to see the distinction between which tense was appropriate to use with "depuis" and the negative. (I'm sure my Kwiziq results reflect that!) I've seen it described that The Present Tense is used when an action was taken in the past and is still the case now, and that Le Passé Composé is used to describe for how long something has not been going on. That is to describe an action that was not taken in the past, and has still not been taken yet. Is this an accurate way to decide which Tense is appropriate to use in negative sentences with depuis?

Aurélie

Kwiziq language super star

1 February 2016

1/02/16

Bonjour Andy,

Yes, it's an accurate way to see it.
Here is an example for using Le Passé Composé:
"Il n'a pas mangé de viande depuis 4 ans." versus "Il ne mange pas de viande depuis 4 ans."
In the first case, we consider the action of "not eating" as finished in the past (i.e. He hasn't eaten meat for four years.) implying that he could be eating meat NOW, whereas the second sentence insists on the prolongation of the action of "not eating" all through the past up to the present moment (i.e.He hasn't been eating meat for 4 years.), he's STILL not eating meat.

I hope that's helpful!

Nancy

Kwiziq community member

28 October 2016

28/10/16

Je suis bloquée à ce sujet!

Jason

Kwiziq community member

20 December 2016

20/12/16

Hi Aurelie

"Suzanne ne l'a pas vu depuis 2013" vs "Suzanne ne le voit pas depuis 2013" - do both mean "Suzanne hasn't seen him since 2013", but the second implies that she is now or soon going to see him?

Cheers

Jason
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