During my work as an online German teacher, I very often see students getting confused with “seit” and “für” in German. In this article, I will explain to you how both of them differ and when you should use which one!
The problem of “seit” and “für
When studying German, you will quickly meet the two prepositions “seit” and “für”. In my honest opinion, many students struggle with them because they translate the English “since” and “for” into German. As most of the time, this does not work. Besides, prepositions are a world for itself. I do believe that it is the hardest part of any language. The reason for this lies in the fact that often, we do not use the same prepositions for the same things in different languages. Therefore, the attempt to transfer prepositions from one language to the other is doomed to failure.
When to use “seit”
In German, we use “seit” when we would like to express “for” or “since”. As you can already see, here comes the tricky part. The meaning of “seit” is that something has started in the past and is still ongoing. Additionally, you should keep in mind that Dativ always follows the preposition “seit”.
For example: “Ich singe seit 5 Jahren im Chor.” – (I have been singing in the choir for 5 years.)
As you can see in our example, I started to sing in the choir 5 years ago, but I still do it. Therefore, I need to use “seit”.
When to use “für”
The preposition “für” in German also means “for” in a timely manner. However, we use it in a different sense. If you use “für”, you would like to express that something has started and finished. Unlike “seit” the action has already stopped and does not continue. Also, the preposition “für” is always followed by the Accusative case.
For example: “Ich habe für 2 Tage in der Firma gearbeitet.” – (I worked in the company for two days.)
As shown in our example, the action of work has a start and an end. I stopped working at some point and do not do it anymore in this moment.
Conclusion “seit” vs. “für”
If you are unsure whether you should use “seit” or “für”, you can always ask yourself the following question:
- Does the action of the sentence still continue? – If yes, use “seit”.
- Does the action has a beginning as well as an end and does not continue until now? – If yes, use “für”.
I hope that I could shed some light in this issue and that you are now confident when to use which of these prepositions.
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