Hace, Desde, Desde Hace: Talking About the Past in Spanish.

Updated: Jul 8


Talking about the past often makes necessary to use dates and refer to periods of time. There are three different expressions that help us do this: hace, desde, and desde hace. Each of them holds a particular meaning and is used in a specific way, so it’s important to learn these differences.


Hace

Hace allows us to specify how long ago something happened. This means we will use this expression to talk about an action that occurred in the past and is now finished, so the tense of the verb we use is preterite. Every time in English we say “ago”, in Spanish we say hace. The only difference is that hace goes before the amount of time. Let’s take a look at the following examples:


  • Me mudé a la Ciudad de México hace tres años. Me encanta vivir aquí.

I moved to Mexico City three years ago. I love living here.


  • Comencé a estudiar español hace cinco meses.

I started studying Spanish five months ago.


  • Llegué hace media hora.

I arrived half an hour ago.


Desde


We use desde to say the date of the beginning of an action that started in the past but still continues in the present. The tense of the verb can be either present or present perfect, and there is no difference if you use one or another. Desde is used just like “since” in English.


  • Vivo en la Ciudad de México desde el 2017.

He vivido en la Ciudad de México desde el 2017.

I’ve lived in Mexico City since 2017.

  • Estudio español desde enero.

He estudiado español desde enero.

I’ve studied Spanish since January.


  • Estoy aquí desde las ocho de la noche.

He estado aquí desde las ocho de la noche.

I've been here since 8 pm.

Desde Hace


Desde hace lets us specify the amount of time that has passed since an action that still continues in the present began. The tenses we use with this expression are either present or present perfect. Both express the same idea. In English, desde hace means “for”.

  • Vivo en la Ciudad de México desde hace tres años.

He vivido en la Ciudad de México desde hace tres años.

I’ve lived in Mexico City for three years.

  • Estudio español desde hace cinco meses.

He estudia español desde cinco meses.

I’ve studied Spanish for five months.


  • Estoy aquí desde hace media hora.

He estado aquí desde hace media hora.

I've been here for half an hour.

Desde Que


I'd like to add this other version of desde. We use desde que when we use an event or action as a reference instead of a specific date. Let me give you some examples.


  • Desde que llegamos a México, hemos comido muchísimo.

Since we arrived to Mexico, we’ve eaten a lot.


  • He visto muchas películas mexicanas desde que empecé a estudiar español.

I’ve watched a lot of Mexican movies since I started studying Spanish.

  • No he salido de casa desde que empezó la cuarentena.

I haven’t left home since quarantine began.


Desde Entonces


Finally, we have this other expression that means "since then".


  • Llegamos a México la semana pasada y hemos comido muchísimo desde entonces.

We arrived to Mexico last week and we’ve eaten a lot since then.


  • Empecé a estudiar español hace cinco meses y desde entonces he visto muchas películas mexicanas.

I started studying Spanish five months ago and since then I’ve watched a lot of

Mexican movies.

  • La cuarentena empezó a finales de marzo y no he salido desde entonces.

Quarantine began at the end of March and I haven’t been out since then.

Recap


So, we basically talked about two different types of expressions. Hace, that is used to specify how long ago an action happened, and desde that is used to talk about actions that started in the past and still continue in the present. We learned that desde has different variations. First, we saw that desde alone is used to refer to a specific date. Then, we saw how desde hace is used to specify the amount of time that has passed since the action began. Later, we talked about desde que and how we use it to refer to an event as a starting point of an action that still continues, instead of a specific date. And finally we learned that desde entonces allows us to use an event or action we've talked about previously as a reference.


I hope you all now master these three little words.