Hace vs Hace Que in Spanish – Ago vs For


Both Hace and hace que are Spanish time expressions that help to express and measure the amount of time that has passed. Even though they may look similar, we use these time expressions with different purposes and intentions. 

So, what does ‘hace’ and ‘hace que’ mean in Spanish? When talking about time, hace means ‘ago’ and expresses the amount of time that has passed since an action has ended. Hace que means ‘for’ and expresses that an action started in the past and still continues to occur in the present. 

Hace and hace que are necessary to talk about your past and present actions. As a result, in this article, we’ll discuss the differences between these words as well as the contexts where you can apply them. 

On top of providing you with phrase structures, we’ll include some examples that you can use as guidance. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of these Spanish time expressions as well as the difference between them. 

What does ‘hace’ and ‘hace que’ mean in Spanish?

When talking about actions or events that took place in the past, hace is used to express how much time has passed since an action was performed. In this context, ‘hace’ means ‘ago’ and it needs to work with numbers or words that express quantities. 

Hace dos horas me fui de mi casa
I left my house two hours ago

Hablé con él hace quince minutos, me dijo que ya casi llega
I talked to him fifteen minutes ago, he told me he’s about to arrive

Hace que is used to talk about actions that started in the past and still continue to occur in the present. It expresses how long this action has been performed for. As a result, it’s translated as ‘for’ or ‘in’. 

Hace dos meses que vivo aquí
I have lived here for two months

¿Cómo está tu hermana? Hace semanas que no la veo
How is your sister? I haven’t seen her in weeks

‘Hace que’ can work with verbs in past tense to intensify or emphasize the sentence. In this context, it means ‘ago’. 

Hace cinco minutos que vi a tu hermana
I saw your sister five minutes ago

Ya no trabajo aquí, ¿no sabías? Hace un año que renuncié
I don’t work here anymore, didn’t you know? I quit one year ago

In the following sections, we’ll discuss more in-depth about the differences between ‘hace’ and ‘hace que’ as well as the contexts where you can use them. 

When & How to Use Hace in Spanish – Ago

As a synonym of ‘ago’, ‘hace’ expresses the amount of time that has passed since a certain action ended. As a result, ‘hace’ always talks about past completed actions. Here is a phrase structure that you can use for this situation. 

Hace + [amount of time] + [verb in past tense]

¡Qué rápido pasa el tiempo! Hace dos años estaba en México
Time passes so fast! Two years ago I was in Mexico

Hace seis meses Iris y Joe se cambiaron de casa
Six months ago Iris and Joe moved out 

Take Note: Spanish is quite flexible with the order of the elements in a sentence. As a result, you can also use the following phrase structure.  

 [Verb in past] + hace + [amount of time] 

Estudié español hace dos años
I studied Spanish two years ago

Empezamos a trabajar aquí hace mucho tiempo
We started working a long time ago

When using ‘hace’ in Spanish, keep in mind that:

  • The amount of time can be specified with numbers and nouns (two years, one week) or with adverbs of quantity (mucho, poco, etc). 
  • ‘Hace’ always remains the same no matter the number of people you’re talking about. Since it’s an expression of time, it doesn’t need to be conjugated.
  • This expression talks about past actions, as a result, it works with verbs in past tense

Asking Questions with Hace

‘Hace’ can also be used to ask people when an action finished in the past. In this situation, ‘hace’ would be translated as ‘how long ago’. In order to use it this way, you will need to use the following structure:

¿Hace + cuánto + [verb in past tense]?

Zoe, ¿hace cuánto volviste de Europa?
Zoe, how long ago did you come back from Europe?

¿Ya no trabajas aquí? ¿Hace cuánto tiempo renunciaste?
You don’t work here anymore? How long ago did you quit?

¡Nadia, Paty! ¿Hace cuánto llegaron? No las había visto
Nadia, Paty! How long ago did you arrive? I haven’t seen you guys!

Hace Como – Talking about estimations

In Spanish, ‘hace como’ is a popular expression that we use when we don’t know the specific amount of time that has passed since an action was completed. ‘Hace como’ expresses an approximate amount of time. It means ‘about…ago’.

Renuncié hace como tres años I quit about three years ago

Me corté el cabello hace como una semana I cut my hair about a week ago

When & How to Use Hace Que in Spanish

Unlike ‘hace’ that focuses on completed past actions, hace que talks about the duration of an action. In other words, this time expression refers to an action that started in the past and still continues in the present. As a result, ‘hace que’ is translated as ‘for’. 

Hace + [amount of time] + que + [verb in present / present perfect]

Hace dos años que Mariana vive en España
Mariana has lived in Spain for two years

¡Qué onda! ¿Cómo estás? Hace meses que no nos vemos 
Hey, how are you? We haven’t seen each other for months

¡Vamos al cine! Hace dos meses que no veo una película
Let’s go to the movies! I haven’t gone to the movies for two months

¿A qué hora podrá atenderme? Hace horas que estoy aquí
What time do you think you can help me? I’ve been here for hours 

Take Note: Notice that you can build negative sentences by adding the word ‘no’ before the conjugated verb. Additionally, be aware that ‘hace que’ always works with present or present perfect tenses because it is talking about an action that is still happening. 

Asking Questions with Hace Que – How Long

‘Hace que’ can also be used to ask someone about the duration of a certain action. Therefore, in this situation, ‘hace que’ would be translated as ‘how long’. Notice that in these situations ‘hace que’ is still emphasizing the action that started in the past and continue in the present. 

¿Hace + cuánto + (tiempo) + que + [verb in present]?

¿Hace cuánto tiempo que vives aquí?
How long have you been living here?

Lily, ¿hace cuánto que no practicas español?
Lily, how long have you not practiced Spanish?

No sabía que eras amiga de mi hermana, ¿hace cuánto la conoces?
I didn’t know you were my sister’s friend, how long have you known her?

Take Note: In the previous sentence, the word ‘tiempo’ is optional. 

By using ‘hace que’ + ‘cuánto’ we’re implying that our question is asking about an amount of time. Additionally, you find the following variation:

¿Cuánto +  hace + que + [verb in present]? 

¿Cuánto tiempo hace que hablas español?
How long have you spoken Spanish?

Oye, Daryl, ¿cuánto hace que trabajas aquí?
Hey, Daryl, how long have you been working here?

Andy, ¿cuánto hace que no vamos por una pizza?
Hey, Andy, how long has it been since we went for a pizza?

Take Note: Just like the affirmative and negative statements, you can also add the word ‘no’ in your question to ask about the amount of time you haven’t done something.

Hace que as a synonym of ‘ago’

In Spanish, ‘hace que’ can also be used as a synonym of ‘ago’. Unlike the previous structures we studied before, in this situation, ‘hace que’ works with verbs in past tense. In this context, the main purpose of ‘hace que’ is to emphasize the amount of time that has passed since an action was completed. 

This meaning of ‘hace que’ can be used with affirmative and negative sentences as well as questions, here are some examples: 

Hace diez años que estudié español en España
I studied Spanish ten years ago in Spain

Hace dos horas que Ben y Tom se fueron con Ana
Two hours ago, Ben and Tom left with Ana

¿Mandy y Dan ya no son novios? ¿Hace cuánto que terminaron?
Mandy and Dan are not dating anymore? How long ago did the break-up?

Take Note: Although you can only use ‘hace’ when talking about past actions, ‘hace que’ allows speakers to intensify their sentence. 

Wrapping Up

When learning time expressions in Spanish, ‘hace’ and ‘hace que’ can be very confusing for new Spanish learners. That’s why in this article we talked about the difference between these words as well as the context where you can apply them. Here are some key points that you need to keep in mind:

Hace 

  • Means ago and it’s used to talk about the time that has passed since an action ended. 
  • It only works with verbs in past tense.
  • Needs to work with words that express amounts of time such as numbers or adverbs of quantity.  
  • Hace is an expression of time, as a result, it doesn’t need to be conjugated. 

Hace que

  • Means for and expresses the duration of an action
  • Works with verbs in present or present perfect tenses. 
  • Talks about an action that started in the past and still continues in the present. 
  • When working with verbs in past tense, ‘hace que’ means ago. Its only purpose is to intensify the sentence. 

Related Resource: How to Use Desde Hace in Spanish

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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