"it has been a very long time" means "depuis très longtemps" (duration, continuous action, not finished), while "il y a-ago" means that the action is in the past and finished.
The only problem I see if that "a very long time ago" is not a complete sentence in English, and the French is, in fact, a complete sentence. Is "it was a very long time ago" accepted?
No, it isn't accepted (it's what I put in), but I think I understand why not. "Il y a" just means "ago" in this context, so the French actually isn't a full sentence I guess.
Right ! although this is a full sentence with subject + verb, "il y a" works like a block. We would say "c'était il y a bien/très longtemps" (it was a very long time ago)
Why wouldn't it accept "very long time ago"? I don't really feel the "a" is necessary there...
This should have been the example presented in Duo. Much better imo. Thanks
Yes, a good, modern way to start a story.
In the old days, stories started with "Il était une fois" (once upon a time)
I was struggling to understand what that meant in English, but then I translated it to Portuguese and all became quite clear to me:
- C'était (1) il y a (2) longtemps (3)
- Foi (1) há (2) muito tempo (3)
In Portuguese and Spanish, the verb "to do" is used the same way:
- Foi (1) faz (2) muito tempo (3)
- Fue (1) hace (2) mucho tiempo (3)
I am so confused. My suggested translation was "It has been a long time", and I was marked wrong for it. I understand what Sitesurf said - that the action must have ceased in the past - however one translation duolingo suggested was "It has been very long time" (which makes no sense without the small article (A) between "been" and "very"), and that construction does not put the time of action in the past at all. I gave this sentence to Goggle Translate, and that program could not handle it, giving the translation as "there has long". I guess that from now on, whenever the sentence pops up, I will put down the fairy tale opening "A long time ago" and be done with the matter.
What Sitesurf is saying means that "il y a" when talking about a period in time simply means "ago". Now, using this knowledge, we translate bien longtemps or tres longtemps - maybe idiomatic but means "a very long time". Put the two together and you have "a very long time (bien longtemps) ago (il y a)".
Me too, I wrote 'It has been a really long time' and Duolingo marked it wrong.
Why doesn't "It's a very long time." work here? There has to be a reference to the past?
The "il y a", equivalent to "there is" in English, seems to be used in French the same way as in Portuguese, to indicate how much time has past since the said event.
- C'était (event) il y a (since that event, there is) longtemps (amount of time past)
In Portuguese (my native language):
- Foi (event) há (since that event, there is) muito tempo (amount of time past)
I answered "it as really been a long time" because of the "bien". I think this is correct, but not sure enough to mark it as a mistake. Anyone?
No, the explanations above are good but the simple reason this is wrong is that there is no possessive ("c'est /it's") in the French translation of the sentence. Also "il y a" here, when talking about a period of time, means "ago" - http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/ilya.htm.
It does not mean the usual "there is" or 'there are". It has been would also be "il a été".
I think so, in so much as the use of "il y a" here is different to its direct translation and there is an implied preposition in "longtemps" here, that is "[A] long time..."
"Long time ago" was not accepted for me. The "a" is not optional according to duo
"A rather long time ago" is just as jolly good a way to say "A very long time ago" as any, wot?
Where is the WAS? One correct answer given was: It was a very long time ago. Shouldn't that be: Il y avait bien longtemps.
Why is "a good long time ago" not accepted? That is the most direct English equivalent of the idiomatic usage of "bien" in French.
Thinking about it, I realized that my proposed sentence probably isn't grammatically correct, strictly speaking. "Good" isn't an adverb, and thus cannot modify an adjective. It's hard to know when Duolingo will be "correct" and when it will allow common colloquialisms as well, but I'll just have to accept that it isn't the latter in this case. :P
"a while ago" = il y a un moment, il y a quelque temps, il y a un certain temps.
It could mean one hour ago as well as some time ago, but not "il y a longtemps" = a long time ago
I tried "A really long time ago" on the phone app and was rejected - if "really" isn't accepted as a synonym for "very" (and I think it should be, in this context!) then "really" shouldn't appear as an option on the phone exercise.