When was the longest time

Ivan_I

Senior Member
Russian
I want to say the following:

When was the longest time you did something/were doing something?

I'd like to know if it works. Are these correct?

When was the longest time you were reading a book?
When was the longest time you spent in a traffic jam?

Am I correct in thinking that this is wrong:
When was the longest time when you were reading a book?
But this is correct:
When was the longest time that you were reading a book?
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I would say What was the longest time it took you to read a book? or What was ... time you spent reading a book?

    When
    refers to a particular time, e.g. last month, February 1 etc.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The book example is a bad one. It simply wouldn’t be expressed that way, as e2efour says.

    Neither would the other one. It would normally be expressed as:

    What’s the longest time you’ve ever spent stuck in a traffic jam?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The past tense might be appropriate within a particular context, but how I’ve written it is how the question would typically be phrased.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The present tense would be more common since it takes us up to the present (i.e. so far).

    As lingobingo says, you could use the past tense in some contexts.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    What if I don't want to know "what was the longest time" but I want to know "when" that occasion of "the longest time" took place?
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think "time" is optional and in many (or most) cases I would leave it out.

    What is the longest you've gone without sleep?

    What is the longest you've studied for an exam?

    What is the longest you have ever dated anyone?
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    I agree with the previous posts but we can conceivably say "When was the longest time you... if you are expecting an answer like "It was while I was on vacation in France; I spent four hours in a traffic jam there once on a holiday weekend." It's unlikely, though. (Context... :) )
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I think "time" is optional and in many (or most) cases I would leave it out.

    What is the longest you've gone without sleep?

    What is the longest you've studied for an exam?

    What is the longest you have ever dated anyone?
    But you suggest a different question.
    "What is the longest" - doesn't cover when it happened. If I need to know WHEN it happened I won't do it with the "what is the longest"


    I agree with the previous posts but we can conceivably say "When was the longest time you... if you are expecting an answer like "It was while I was on vacation in France; I spent four hours in a traffic jam there once on a holiday weekend." It's unlikely, though. (Context... :) )
    When was the longest time you + PAST SIMPLE?
    or
    When was the longest time you + PAST CONTINUOUS?
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Hello everybody!
    If I have this sentence:
    This is the first time I have read this book.

    How should I make it interrogative?
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Yes, myself. But I wanted to ask myself when it happened. How do I do it?

    When was the first time???
     
    Last edited:

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, but it’s still strange to talk to yourself!

    When was the first time I read this book? I don’t really remember. Erm… let me think now…​
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I can't help wondering why
    When was the first time I read this book? :tick:
    but this one
    When was the longest time I read this book?:cross:
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    That sentence makes no sense, unless you mean you have read the book several times and on each occasion it took you a different length of time to finish it.

    What was the longest time you ever spent [on] reading this book? :tick::eek:
     

    Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    I can't help wondering why
    When was the first time I read this book? :tick:
    but this one
    When was the longest time I read this book?:cross:
    Because “the longest time I read this book” doesn’t make sense.

    It might be better to choose a different example. Let’s say it normally takes you 30 minutes to drive home from work, but that sometimes traffic is bad and it can take much longer. If someone wanted to ask you what the worst traffic day was, and for some reason had to use “the longest time,” they would have to ask you something like this:

    “On what day has it taken you the longest time to get home?”

    Even at that, it’s pretty awkward, and we would probably use a different construction, or make two questions out of it.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I can't help wondering why
    When was the first time I read this book? :tick:
    but this one
    When was the longest time I read this book?:cross:


    I'm talking to Bob.

    Bob: This is my favorite book.
    Me: How many times have you read it?
    Bob: Seven times.
    Me: That's a lot. When was the first time you read it?
    Bob: I first read it when I was 15 years old.
    Me: It looks like a big book. What's the longest time it took you to read it?
    Bob: The shortest time was two days because I didn't have anything else to do. The longest time it took me to read it was a week, because I had other things I needed to get done that week also.

    When is used to ask about a point in time.

    What is used about an amount of time. (What is the greatest amount of time you needed to finish it?)
     
    Last edited:

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    What's the longest time it took you to read it?
    Yes.
    "The first time" is an event. When was the first time?
    "The longest time" sounds like an amount of time. How long was the longest time?
    Your question is attempting to compress "What was the longest amount of time that it took you to read that book and when was it that it took you that long to read it?" into one question.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Your question is attempting to compress "What was the longest amount of time that it took you to read that book and when was it that it took you that long to read it?" into one question.
    You are absolutely right. In my first language such a sentence can be easily constructed. That's why it's surprising that it doesn't work that way in English.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    - What is the longest time it took you to finish the book and when was that?

    - I took it with me on vacation but I was having so much fun doing other things that I only read a small part each day. It took me the whole week to finish it.
     

    Ivan_I

    Senior Member
    Russian
    “On what day has it taken you the longest time to get home?”
    I wonder why not: "On what day did it take you the longest time to get home?"

    By the way, is this OK:
    When did it take you the longest amount of time to read a book?
     
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