When desde, desde que, desde hace, and hace are first introduced to Spanish students, questions ensue. All these words just seem bottomline confusing. Here’s to simplicity.
When meaning “from,” use desde.
Desde (without que) precedes a specific time or date, including: el año 2000 (the year 2000), ayer (yesterday), anteayer (before yesterday), anoche (last night), ahora (now). Desde could also be translated as “since.” You can use desde hace with present indicative, present perfect, preterite indefinite, the gerund, and even preterite imperfect.
When referring to a specific moment when something occurred, use desde que. The conjunction que introduces a conjugated verbs. In this sense, desde means “since” as well.
When referring to actions that started in the past and are ongoing in the present, use desde hace. Desde hace is used with the gerund and the present perfect, but it is not used with the preterite indefinite or the imperfect.
This is used the same way as desde hace to refer to the present. However, it is necessary to include the que conjunction. You cannot use hace + period of time + que with the present perfect, gerund, imperfect, only with the present indicative or preterite indefinite. In some instances, the translation will be “since” or “for.” Using the same examples as with desde hace above with present indicative:
The following examples use the preterite indefinite. In this case, when we use hace + period of time + que means “ago.”
Desde hace could be potentially placed at the beginning or towards the end of a sentence, but it is more natural to place it towards the end.
Same uses as hace + period of time + que + preterite indefinite above, but two things change: 1) hace is placed towards the end of the sentence; 2) the conjunction que is eliminated. Even though hace could be placed at the end of the sentence in the present tense for colloquial speech, the standard is to place hace at the beginning with either the present or preterite indefinite or at the end with the preterite. The preterite indefinite is the only verb tense that will allow hace to ble placed at the end of the sentence. Using the examples from above:
Now that you know and understand some of the differences, try the exercises below. Do not be thrown off by the translation. They conjugation can be slightly different in English, but the meaning is the same. I’ve translated the sentences so they sound as natural as possible.
Answers: 1. desde que; 2. hace; 3. desde; 4. desde; 5. desde que; 6. hace; 7. hace; 8. hace; 9. desde hace; 10. desde hace
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Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.
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