How to say in Italian: “How long have you been doing something?”

How to say in Italian: “How long have you been doing something?”

To ask how long someone has been doing something, Italian uses the present tense (and not the present perfect, like in English).

These types of questions are introduced by “da quando” or “da quanto tempo”, meaning how long + the presente indicativo.

For example, 

  • Da quanto tempo studi Italiano?   How long have you been studying italian?
  • Da quanto tempo insegni italiano? How long have you been teaching Italian?
  • Da quanto tempo lavori in questa azienda? How long have you worked in this company?
  • Da quanto tempo abiti in Sicilia? How long have you lived in Sicily?

To answer these types of questions in Italian, we use the presente indicativo + da  (meaning for) + a period of time. For example:

  • Studio italiano da tre anni – I’ve been learning Italian for three years 
  • Insegno italiano da 10 anni – I’ve been teaching italian for ten years 
  • Lavoro in questa azienda da tanti anni – I’ve been working at this company for many years
  • Abito in Italia da cinque anni – I’ve been living in Italy for five years.

Let’s recap:

Question

[ENG] How long have you been studying (present perfect continuous ) Italian? 

[IT] Da quanto tempo (or da quando) studi (presente indicativo) italiano? 

Answers

[ENG] I’ve been studying  (present perfect continuous) Italian for 2 years.  

[IT] Studio (presente indicativo) italiano da 2 anni. 

[ENG] I’ve been studying (present perfect continuous) Italian since 2020.

[IT] Studio (presente indicativo) italiano dal 2020.

Important: 

Notice that in English, in contrast to Italian, the same question is asked and answered using  the present perfect or the present perfect continuous tense. This often leads to confusion and mistakes can arise when English speakers are led astray by the apparent similarities in form between the English present perfect and the Italian passato prossimo, and as a result try to use the passato prossimo to refer to an action or situation that began in the past and continues into the present (for which they would use the present perfect or the present perfect continuous in English). This is wrong. The presente indicativo is the correct form to use to refer to such actions/situations — NOT the passato prossimo. 

Exercice