In English, we use "since" to point out particular date of an activity - "I have been learning German since June". But I've recently encountered a sentence like this:

Ich lerne Deutsch seit 2 Jahren.

Why use "seit" rather than "für" or something?

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    You should disengage your English way of thinking about other languages. You'll often find inherent differences in other languages just because they are.... well... different. I also feel like the sentence shuttle read "Ich lerne seit zwei Jahren Deutsch" – infinitezero Sep 13 '19 at 14:38
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    No need, IMHO, to disengage the English way of thinking. But the OP should realize and understand that German is "different." – Tom Au Sep 13 '19 at 16:15
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    Well, when you talk/write German, try to think German. Try to imagine how a German would think about the sentence. This helps me a lot when speaking in a foreign language. Otherwise comes a sentence like this out. – infinitezero Sep 13 '19 at 18:09
  • Counter-question: Why don't you say "I learn English since two years" in English? – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 14 '19 at 7:49
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    Because "since." – Dan Sep 14 '19 at 11:42

Roughly speaking, "seit," in German, means "for a period of time since..."

So "seit Juni," could mean "since June."

Or "seit zwei Jahren" could mean, "for a period of time that is two years (already);" that is, "for two years."

The German word "seit" is broader in meaning than the English equivalent "since" and encompasses both meanings.

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  • You say it could could mean. What else can it mean? – infinitezero Sep 13 '19 at 16:22
  • @infinitezero: I broke up seit into two "branches;" the "for" branch and the"since" branch. Or, if you prefer, "for" means period in time, and "since" means point int time. They are distinct in English, even though they may have a "unified" meaning in German. I think that's the point of the OP's question. – Tom Au Sep 13 '19 at 16:28

For what particular reason should any other language than English follow the same rules as English? English knows 'for' and 'since', which are both translated as "seit".

Seit dem 11.09.2001 sind Kontrollen am Flughafen strenger geworden. Security at airports became stricter since 9/11

Seit 18 Jahren sind die Kontrollen am Flughafen strenger geworden. Airport security has been stricter for the last 18 years

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    Surprisingly many people (in the English-speaking part of the world) believe that God wrote the Bible in English. So, obviously English is the first language, and accordingly should rule the world. – Christian Geiselmann Sep 13 '19 at 15:10
  • Must be the same people that believe Jesus was white. – infinitezero Sep 13 '19 at 15:11
  • It is said that some American Baptist said: "If the King James Bible was good enough for St Paul, it's good enough for me." – RHa Sep 13 '19 at 17:45

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