Consider the following construction:

I have been learning German for two years.

I have learned the following ways to translate this sentence and they seem to all mean the same thing despite differences in syntax:

Llevo dos años aprendiendo alemán.

Hace dos años que aprendo alemán.

He estado aprendiendo alemán por dos años.

I don't know if there are any more ways to do this. So my question is, which of the above construct is most likely to be used by a native speaker in day-to-day conversation to convey this idea? Is the preference tied to the region or dialect? If so, in what ways?

Also, how would you translate the sentence if one is to add words like "past" or "last" to it? For example:

I have been learning German for the last two years.

P.S. Please mention the flavor of Spanish your answer pertains to, e.g. Mexican, Argentinean, Latin American, Castilian, etc., if applicable

  • 1
    Please, note that "I have been" would be translated in this case as "He estado aprendiendo alemán por dos años".
    – Diego
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 14:30
  • 1
    I've been thinking about this and I think I'm equally prone to use any of the three. I have no reasons to believe that I would unconsciously favor one over the other in any given context.
    – Diego
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 22:21
  • @Diego si tuviese yo que pensar en algo, diría que llevo … enfoca en el esfuerzo realizado, hace … en el tiempo transcurrido y he estado … en la acción sí misma. ¿Qué piensas? A lo mejor lo estoy pensando demasiado jaja. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 3:37
  • 1
    @AmitSchandillia I'm not a native speaker, but I speak mostly the same dialect as Diego albeit with heavy influences from Asturian and Portuguese. There are differences in aspectual interpretations across regions so even if he confirms my suspicions, it'd be good to get confirmation from speakers of at least one or two other dialects. If I had more time, I'd dig into the Gramática which is very comprehensive and panhispanic — but it's too comprehensive unfortunately for quick answers. Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 4:20
  • 1
    @guifa, excelente! Creo que deberías ponerlo en una respuesta. Habría que clarificar con cuidado que no es una norma y hay una frontera difusa entre esas distinciones. "Llevo 2 años viviendo aquí y no me sé el nombre de las calles" enfoca tiempo transcurrido, pero creo que la inflexión que le das a los verbos es acertada.
    – Diego
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 14:33

3 Answers 3


All of your examples would be completely acceptable, as well as interchangeable. It's almost equal to or less than the differences in English.

I've been studying German for two years

For two years, I've been studying German.

I have two years worth of studying German.

Another example to add to your list

Desde hace dos años estudio

Regionally, I have no answer.

Spanish is Spanish no matter which country you are in; you will be understood no matter which phrase you choose.

Also, how would you translate the sentence if one is to add words like "past" or "last" to it?

Your examples already imply the past; but I supposed you could add desde to your sentence to emphasize the years.

He estudiado el alemán desde hace dos años.

He estudiado el alemán desde los dos años pasados.

  • 1
    Thanks for the explanation. I already know they all mean exactly the same thing hence my question about which one is "most likely" to be used in regular conversation. For example, an English speaker is more likely to say "I've been studying German for two years" than "I have two years worth of studying German" in regular conversations, even though both will be understood and are equally correct.
    – TheLearner
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 15:01
  • Yeah, adding desde is the only way I know how to answer your second question.
    – dockeryZ
    Commented Dec 8, 2014 at 15:06

I am a native spanish speaker, and you have it mostly right. You can say (and I am going to try to be very natural here...)

  • Llevo dos años estudiando alemán
  • Tengo dos años de estar estudiando alemán
  • Hace dos años que empecé a estudiar alemán
  • Por dos años, he estado estudiando alemán

Y otras muchas formas más.

But what didn't make a 'click' is that you are using the verb aprender instead of estudiar. It is more natural in spanish to say that you are studying something, and learning would be the goal. So...

Empecé a estudiar inglés desde que tenía ocho años, y todavía no he aprendido del todo.


Here in Argentina you can say "Hace dos años que estoy aprendiendo/estudiando alemán" or "Empecé a aprender/estudiar alemán hace dos años" and it's alright. Someone up there said that using "aprendiendo" is wrong but to me it sounds perfectly acceptable, and here it is widely used colloquially.

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