Since when was it possible to find out everything you need to know about idioms, collocations, phrasal verbs and word grammar all in one place? Since Tim Bowen started writing Your English, of course! This week, Tim discusses the finer points of the word since.

Most learners first encounter since as a preposition, as in ‘Turkey has been a republic since 1923’ or ‘Everything has changed so much since last spring'. Since can also function as a conjunction linking two clauses together, as in ‘I’ve known Joanna since she was born’ or ‘I hadn’t seen her since she went to live in Oxford’. In such cases it is normally used with the present perfect or past perfect tense, either in the simple or continuous form. As a conjunction, since can also be used to mean ‘as’ or 'because’, as in ‘I shall not be able to attend the meeting since I shall be on holiday with my family’ or ‘Since there’s no more business, we can all go home’.

A third function of since is as an adverb, where it can appear in final position, as in ‘She left home in 1993 and I haven’t seen her since’ or before the final part of the verb, as in 'The accident was blamed on the pilot, who has since retired’. The expression ever since can be used in the same way as the first adverbial use of since (e.g. ‘Paul started sailing in 1986 and he’s been doing it ever since'), while long since can be used in the same way as the second (e.g. ‘The people who built the temple have long since vanished’).

Finally, since can also be used in the expression since when? (normally in spoken language) to indicate that you are surprised or annoyed by what someone has said or done because it does not seem right, fair or sincere, as in 'Since when has it been against the rules to have a coffee break?' Since when can also be used as a response, as in 'You have to wear a suit and tie to eat here'. 'Since when?'