Difference between for and during in English
The difference between for and during is pretty confusing for many learners of English. However, despite semantic similarity, they are used in a different way. The problem seems to be that in other languages, like in Spanish, these two words (for and during) are translated as a same word. In the case of Spanish for and during are translated as durante, which unfortunately for learners is pretty similar to during.
The use of for in English
The word for is a preposition which is usually followed by “a/an” or a number, plus a unit of time (seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc.). This preposition is used to express the duration of something:
I have lived in Granada for 10 years.
We have known each other for a couple of months.
The film lasted for 2 hours.
If we pay close attention, the preposition for answers always the question “How long…?”:
How long have you lived in Granada? (For) 10 years.
How long have you known each other? (For) a couple of months.
How long did the film last for? It lasted for 2 hours.
In this way, it is relatively easy to identify when to use for.
The use of during in English
During is another English preposition which tells us when something happens in time. Besides, it is usually followed by a noun which is not necessarily a time unit.
Let’s see some examples:
We couldn’t get any cigarettes during the war.
He died during the night.
All the hotels are full during the summer season.
In the same way as for, during also answers a question, but not “How long…?”, but rather “When…?”:
When couldn’t you get any cigarettes? During the war.
When did he die? During the night.
When are all the hotels full? During the summer season.
In conclusion, according to the previous examples, the difference between for and during is that for tells us how long an action is, while during tells us when something happened. For this reason, if you ever need to know which one to use, you can ask yourself: Do I need to answer “How long…?” or “When…?”. It’s that simple!