Using Hacer to talk about the past in Spanish

I run a Spanish Meet Up group and every week the same question comes up, “How long have you been studying Spanish?”  And my answer is always the same:

Llevo casi 10 años aprendiendo español
I’ve been learning Spanish for almost 10 years

Some of you may be surprised to see that you can answer that question with the verb llevar, but that’s a lesson for another day.

There’s nothing wrong with that response.  In fact, you will probably impress your Spanish speaking friends with it.  So what are we here to talk about you ask?  The fact that you can say the same thing with the verb hacer.

Enough chit-chat, let’s get on with it.

Before I get to how to answer the question, let me explain to you how to ask the question.  For that you’ll need the phrase “hace cuánto tiempo“.

¿Hace cuánto tiempo que estudias español?
How long have you been studying Spanish?

That isn’t a literal translation, so don’t get caught up by that.  Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s find out how to answer the question.  It’s actually pretty simple.  The same verb you used to ask the question is the same verb you use to answer it.

Hace 10 años que estudio español
I’ve been studying for 10 years

That wasn’t hard was it?  Let’s look at another example:

¿Hace cuánto tiempo que no fumas?
How long has it been since you stopped smoking?

You see, hace (from the verb hacer) is your verb of choice for talking about how long ago you’ve been doing something or how long ago something happened.  Here are a few more examples:

¿Hace cuánto tiempo te mudaste a los Estados Unidos?
How long ago did you move to the United States?

Me mudé a los Estados Unidos hace 5 años
I moved to the United States 5 years ago

Hace mucho que no sé nada del él
I haven’t heard from him in a long time

Hace mucho tiempo que no voy al cine
I haven’t gone to the movies in a long time

Here are a few other ways you could have answered that last question.  You may not find these in your Spanish book, but trust me they’re very common responses.

Hace mucho tiempo
A long time ago

uuuy, hace mucho
hmmm, a long time ago

Notice in that last example I omitted the word “tiempo“, but it’s understood.

Here’s one more example:

We’ve known for a long time that women bring us happiness.

Lastly let’s translate one final example:

Hace mucho tiempo en una galaxia muy, muy, lejana
A long time ago in a galaxy very, very far away

If you’re a Star Wars fan now you can start talking about the movie in two languages.

Ya esta!  Así de facíl.  Any questions?  I know, I didn’t translate that.  Consider it your tarea (homework).

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Comments 3

  1. Thanks for your blog posts! They are very helpful. Could you do a post on the uses of llevar? I hear it all the time in different contexts so I would love to understand the different uses, esp in Mexico.

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