Is the verb tense correct?

I read a book in American English about Marco Polo, there is sentence like this: Marco Polo did not reach China for three and a half years. Is the verb tense correct?

The sentence sounds a bit vague. I won’t use ‘for a period of time’ in simple past tense.

Yes, it is.
From the time he set out, it took him three and a half years to reach China. The whole journey took place in the past.

Also note “there is a sentence like this”.

I’m really not sure what you mean by this sounding vague.
If you would not use ‘for two years’, ‘for six days’, ‘for five minutes’, etc. with the simple past tense, then you would have problems writing coherently in some contexts. How would you choose to write the original sentence?

Marco Polo did not reach China though he had travelled for three and a half years.

Wouldn’t this be an alternative?

It is not an alternative to the original as it has a completely different meaning.

Original. Marco Polo got to China after three and a half years.
You version: Marco Polo never reached China. He possibly gave up after three and a half years.
Alternatively if he didn’t give up and did eventually reach China then the next sentence/paragraph would explain how long it did take him to actually reach China… but it would have been longer than the time specified.

This, I think will convey the original meaning.
Marco Polo did not reach China until he travelled for three and a half years.

That would need to be:
… until he had travelled for…

It does not convey the same meaning. It indicates he went travelling, calling (deliberately) at various countries, then eventually reached China.

Believe it or not, much of what you say will be frowned upon by university teachers here. It is just because you discuss things without strict regard for the system of education prevalent in a non native community. You seem to treat all alike, that is, you would like others to be on the lines followed by you/in your region. But foreign users would need authenticity and authority.

We have to learn/teach formal English usage so as to enable the students to speak/write the language as foreigners, not as natives. Your explanations are often not convincing in the light of this fact. They often look as though you want to assert what you say about a particular usage. You need to be patient, without any bias, to appreciate foreigners’ questions as well as their arguments.

Some of my British friends have remarked that foreigners, particularly Indians, are using the language often far better than natives can. Of course I would tell them that it is a legacy, though they may have paid heavily for learning it.

Now, if you distinguish between ‘foreign formal usage’ and ‘native formal usage’ in respect of an aspect of English, it will be better for foreign users. Otherwise they are very likely to be confused. They can’t use it in formal contexts either.

Your assertions that ‘Neither of them are good’ and ‘She is a M.Tech’ are really not acceptable here. Those sentences continue to be taught/learned as ‘Neither of them is good’ and She is an M.Tech’. So, please make it clear if they are formally accepted as correct by the British system of Education. In that case we will be able to take it up when an occasion arises. If you say that you are qualified and competent to be an authority on the language, we will quote you.

(You are welcome to point out errors/typos even in this communication, but it should be convincing)

Thank you for your attention, Beees.
I would recast the sentence as it took Marco Polo three and a half years to reach China.
What I’ve learned is ‘for’ and ‘since’ is often used with the present perfect tense. That’s what confused me and why I say it sounds a bit vague to me.
Can you help clarify this? Thank you

Thank you for your attention, Beees.
I would recast the sentence as it took Marco Polo three and a half years to reach China.
What I’ve learned is ‘for’ and ‘since’ is often used with the present perfect tense. That’s what confused me and why I say it sounds a bit vague to me.
Can you help clarify this? Thank you

Yes; but would you let me know for which sentence the ‘it’ stands?

Yes, ‘for’ and ‘since’ are also used with the present perfect and present perfect progressive tense forms. Then ‘for’ is chosen to refer to a period of time (one second, one minute, one hour, one day etc) and ‘since’ is chosen to refer to a point in time (yesterday, last week, 1947, then etc)

He has not waited for a moment.
He has been waiting for two hours.

They have studied here since July 2014.
They have been studying here since last year.

I have used this forum for over three years.
I have been using this forum since 2011.

Hi, Cori:

Although your query has not been addressed to me, let me say something that might interest you?

You are right: ‘for’ and ‘since’ are most often used in perfect aspects. However, ‘for’ can be used both in the present perfect and the past simple. In “Advanced Grammar in Use” by Martin Hewings one may read the following:

We often use before, for and recently with the present perfect and also the past simple.

For example:

 [i]... with present perfect[/i]

• Nothing like this has happened before.
• We’ve had the dishwasher for three years (= we have still got it). <----
• A new school has recently opened in New Road.

  [i]...with past simple[/i]

• Why [b]didn't[/b] ask [b]me [/b][i]before[/i]?
• We [b]had[/b] the car [i]for[/i] six years. (= we no longer have it)    [b]<----[/b]
• I [b]saw[/b] Dave [i]recently[/i].

Yours. The most recently mentioned one, as per usual rules.

As a non-native, I found some ideas in Anglophile’s #9 deserving to be objected to. Nothing personal, just looking at things differently.

  1. Quote: “We have to learn/teach formal English usage so as to enable the students to speak/write the language as foreigners, not as natives.”—In other words, you’d settle for a ‘second-best’ English, the language natives don’t use among themselves, and could apply to as a condescending jesture only for those handicapped to understand? You agree to read English/American prose and poetry abridged and adapted? You’d like to hear natives’ humor translated for you?
    Me certainly not.
  2. The language you pick up in grammar books, and one you hear from the screen/meet when reading papers, are quite different, sometimes they are poles apart. The only way to learn real English is to communicate with natives and ask them which way they would choose. As a person who did quite a number of tests and swallowed some grammar books, I still felt a toddler when hearing\reading the way natives express ideas. It took some time before I started to guess (not understand) what they really meant putting things like they did. Massive credit to the teachers I’ve met, and their patience.
  3. The phenomenon I observe, the more you deal with the language outside a grammar book, the more you admire the way natives circumvent grammar hurdles in ordinary speech, and the safer you feel to emulate them (mostly mistakenly, but sky’s the limit!)
    As to “neither of the passengers was\were injured”, it’s old as age. Like “an history”. Like “it’s nine years since…” instead of ‘it’s been nine years…’ etc, etc.
    Look at how a native could speak: “So, I guess my surprise was, as popular as he was and as much a celebrity as he was, he was the most humble guy that I ever met."
    Would you have a cheek to correct natives? Sometimes I’m tempted to, then I ask myself: Would you fancy being corrected yourself by outsiders?.. Don’t you know better than those non-natives? I think you know the answer.

But see Eugene, we are supposed to teach the English formally recognised and recommended by our universities regardless of what the native users might say. It may take time to update the current pattern being followed here. We can only discuss the possibilities and argue for and against them now.

As I hear few critical reviews by other non native users/speakers of English, I’m unable to assess the global approach to the use of current English for official purposes. Much of what we discuss on this forum cannot be taken to the classroom. For academic interest we may introduce the new trend, but the students will immediately ask us to be specific, often with reference to the glossary or key or guidance notes usually provided to them. Just because one or two persons say that something is also correct, we cannot accept it in toto. There lies our limitation.

I’m not oblivious of the growing trend. The youths tend to contend that chat and sms English saves time, space and money, and suggest that its use should be allowed. I don’t think there is any logic in their lazy approach. They are free to adopt any type of English for their informal or private or personal communication, though.

It is not a condescending gesture; nor is it a ‘handicapped to understand’ situation. It is only to ensure uniformity in the official/formal use of the English language.

And, very long ago, my professor said, ‘Though you study American poetry, you are not expected to follow American spelling at least when you take your English examination, for we are supposed to follow only BrE under our education system.’

I believe I got where we differ: you’re looking at it as a teacher dealing with real or imaginary questions from your students. Of course, at that level, students’ minds shouldn’t be stirred—putting it simply, they should tell right from flat-out wrong, and black from white. Especially those getting ready for TOEFL\GMAT…
As I’m not bothered by things like that, my interests lie where ‘normal’ BrE\AmE natives move: their language, habits, views,… Yes, they may and sometimes do sound unfamiliar if you only rely on your textbook English, still I would rather deal with people in the flesh than grammarians making you constantly feel anxious about breaking this or that rule.

“Language marches on. I guess that we have no choice but to keep up with the parade.”—I’m signing up for our friend James’ approach…

Yes, language is a living organism as I have said elsewhere earlier. So, we do need to watch the developments (of course, without being neophobiac), but we may not be able to adopt/advocate/promote them for formal use until they are academically accepted and recognized at the appropriate level.

Nevertheless, I thank you, Eugene, for your comments.

I thank you for your opinion too.