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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hacer + tiempo, Or some time ago

Hace casi un año que no escribo en este blog.

It has been almost a year that I don't write on this blog. (Or, I wrote on this blog almost a year ago)

There are more ways to translate the sentence above, but the idea is the same: something happened X-time ago. The idiomatic expression in Spanish is expressed with the verb "hacer." Imagine that Father Time "makes" the time pass and that's why we say "hace." Of course it's not the original idea for this use of hacer, but that may help you to remember. My first translation of "Hace casi un año..." is "It has been almost a year" because it is closer to the idea of "hace." Yes, in English we use the compound present tense to express what in Spanish is the simple present tense, but don't get lost thinking about that too much. "Hacer + an expression of time" can be used in the present, past, and future.

Something to remember:
  • Hacer is conjugated in the third person, singular, just like "ella" and "él": hace (presente), hacía (imperfecto or copretérito), hizo (pretéterito), hará (futuro).
  • Some expressions of time that you may use: un año, un mes, un día, un siglo (century), una hora, un minuto; unos años, dos años, unos días, dos días, unos siglos, dos siglos, unas horas, dos horas, unos minutos, dos minutos, una semana, unas semanas, dos semanas, tres semanas, tres años, etc.
  • "Hacer" may be in one verbal tense, but the rest of the sentence may be in a different tense.
  • When we use this expression, the emphasis is on the time that has happened, therefore it frequently goes at the beginning of the phrase. In this case, we need "que" to connect the idea of time to a complete sentence--this means, that the sentence has subject, verb, and complement.
  • When the expression of time is used at the end of the phrase, then we don't need "que."
  • "Since X-time ago" or "For X-time" translate as "desde hacer + an expression of time."
  • To ask a question, we use "¿Cuánto tiempo hace...?" or "¿Cuánto hace que...?" in the present tense.

Here are a few ways to use "hacer + tiempo" 

Hacer in the Present Tense: 
Hace dos años que fui a Costa Rica. (I went to Costa Rica two years ago.)
Fui a Costa Rica hace dos años.
¿Cuántos años hace que estudias español? (For how long have you been studying Spanish?

¿Cuánto hace que vives en Richmond? (How long has it been since you live in Richmond? or For how long have you lived in Richmond?)
Vivo en Richmond desde hace tres años. ( I have lived in Richmond for three years, or I have lived in Richmond since three years ago.)
Desde hace tres años vivo en Richmond.

Hacer in the Preterite Tense:
Ayer hizo un año que nació mi sobrino. (My nephew was born a year ago yesterday.)
¿Cuánto tiempo hizo la semana pasada que se construyó esta casa? (How long has it been since this house was built? or How long ago was this house built?)
La semana pasada hizo un siglo que se construyó esta casa. (This week was built a century ago last week.)

Hacer in the Imperfect (copretérito or imperfect preterite) Tense:
Ese día hacía dos años que ellos se habían casado. (That day, it had been two years since they got married.)
Hicimos una fiesta anoche porque hacía un mes que compramos la casa. (We had a party last night because we bought our house a month ago, or We had a party last night to celebrate that we bought our house a month ago.)
¿Cuánto tiempo hacía que había venido tu abuela? (How long had it been since your grandmother came?)
Hacía tres semanas que había venido mi abuela.   (It was three weeks ago yesterday that my grandmother came, or my My grandmother came three weeks ago yesterday.)

Hacer in the Future Tense:
Mañana hará cinco años que visité Barcelona. (Tomorrow will be five days that visited Barcelona.)
El próximo año hará cuatro siglos que se fundó esta ciudad. (Next year, it will be four centuries that this city was founded.)
¿Cuánto tiempo hará mañana que vino el huracán? (How long will it be tomorrow that the hurricane came?)

An advanced Spanish note

What is the difference between the following two sentences?
Hace un año que no escribía en este blog.
Hacía un año que no escribía en este blog.

Both mean the same: It has been a year since I wrote on this blog, or I didn't write on this blog for a year. But the emphasis is different and the use of one or the other depends on the speaker's preferences. The first sentence sounds more like a completed comment, while if I hear the second one I expect a longer story.

If you look at the posts history of this blog, the phrase from the beginning is true: Hace un año que no escribía en este blog.

These are just a few examples. I hope it helps.


  1. Nancy FeigenbaumMay 22, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Gracias Lulu! Hace un rato que no te veo.

    1. Hey, Nancy, es verdad: hace un montón de tiempo que no nos vemos. ¿Cuándo nos tomamos un café?