General Writing and Grammar Help/How long, since when

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Question
Dear Ted:

Would you please explain with the help of some examples the difference between "How long" and "Since when" when they are both used at the beginning of a question?

Also, are there any cases in which the two interchange?

If so, when?

Would you please give me some examples?

Many, many thanks for your kind help.

Take care my friend,

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Would you please explain with the help of some examples the difference between "How long" and "Since when" when they are both used at the beginning of a question?

Also, are there any cases in which the two interchange?

*** "How long" is standard usage.  "Since when" is not.

Let's look at "since when" first.  If you use these words to start a sentence, you will NOT end up with a complete sentence.  What you will have is a "rejoinder" or sometimes a "sarcastic remark."

EXAMPLES:

Since when did you become our leader?  [adverbial clause --NOT a complete sentence]  This is a sarcastic remark.

Since when were women allowed in this club?  [The complete sentence is this:  "When were women allowed in this club?"]

"How long" is commonly used and is grammatically correct.

EXAMPLES:

How long have you been studying the Italian language?

How long have you been waiting for me.

*** Paolo, it would be inappropriate to begin the last two sentences with "Since when."  They are acceptable ONLY in very casual conversation.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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