Lesson 26 How long?
English has a lot of tenses, which leads to the common error Tomoko makes below:
Tomoko: How long do you live in Japan?
Emily: Well, I’ve been here for five years, and I’m planning to stay a lot longer.
Emily seems confused by Tomoko’s question. This is because this question doesn’t work in the simple present tense (単純現在形). If Emily were visiting Japan for a short time, Tomoko could ask, “How long are you staying in Japan?” But Emily lives in Japan, so Tomoko should ask, “How long have you lived in Japan?” This is because we use the present perfect tense (現在完了形) to ask about actions that started in the past and continue now. Other such questions are, “How long have you worked at your company?” and “How long have you studied English?” I hope this doesn’t take long to understand.