How long...

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avardany

Senior Member
Armenian
Dear native speaker colleagues,

How does the following question sound to you:

How long [did you spend] / [have you spent] there?

I know there are replacements like How much time [did you spend] / [have you spent] there? or How many days / hours [did you spend] / [have you spent] there? but I am interested specifically in the first option. It could be more or less colloquial; however, I wonder if it is right or wrong. The point is whether we can use How long in such a question pattern or not.

Thank you,
Ashot
 
  • Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I would have no problem with "How long were you there?"
    But in your sentence, what sounds odd to me is the combination of "How long" with the verb "to spend".
    For me, "spend" requires a more explicit reference to time: either the word "time" or—as you said—days, hours, etc.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I find How long did you spend there? unremarkable. although it seems to be less common than How much time did you spend there?.
    It appears, for example, in the Cambridge Learners Dictionary under spend (How long have you spent in Edinburgh?).

    How long have you spent?
    seems to be much less common and probably should be regarded as rather informal.

    There are previous threads (e.g. http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=460284).
     

    avardany

    Senior Member
    Armenian
    Thank you very much, Cenzontle. As you could see, there was another opinion (from e2efour), so, I figure out the How long + spend option may be in use but not everywhere; probably, it is dialectal and more typical of BE. I just made such an inference after exploring authentic English language sources, including media, on (or in?) the internet.
     

    avardany

    Senior Member
    Armenian
    Thank you very much, e2efour. Of course, How much time + spend is more common; however, your comment shows How long + spend is also possible in some informal settings. After exploring a number of authentic English language sources, I had a feeling it could be more characteristic of British English.
     

    avardany

    Senior Member
    Armenian
    I completely agree with sound shift, sorry for my inaccurate wording: if I mean British English, I can't describe it as "dialectal". Yes, I also had a feeling it was more characteristic for BE. Also, it is good to know the combination in question is considered neutral in register. Thank you very much for the information. It was important for me as a teacher.
     
    Last edited:

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    Maybe it's worth pointing out that how long did you spend there? implies that you are no longer there, but how long have you spent there? implies that you are still there.
     

    avardany

    Senior Member
    Armenian
    Maybe it's worth pointing out that how long did you spend there? implies that you are no longer there, but how long have you spent there? implies that you are still there.
    Thank you, exgerman. Of course, it could be worth mentioning that difference depending on the context. However, my initial point was whether the combination of How long + spend is basically possible.
     
    Last edited:

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    I've had some time to think about "How long ... spend...?", and I've come to think my rejection of it was too definitive.
    I hope no one will conclude, on the basis of what I said, that there is any kind of dialectal difference in usage.
    I can't be sure that I would never say it.
    In the C.O.C.A. corpus I entered "How long * * spend" and found 14 interesting examples. The form is certainly not absent from American English.
     

    avardany

    Senior Member
    Armenian
    I've had some time to think about "How long ... spend...?", and I've come to think my rejection of it was too definitive.
    I hope no one will conclude, on the basis of what I said, that there is any kind of dialectal difference in usage.
    I can't be sure that I would never say it.
    In the C.O.C.A. corpus I entered "How long * * spend" and found 14 interesting examples. The form is certainly not absent from American English.
    Thank you so much! It is important for me to get answers from well-educated native speakers.
     
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