# Who takes the longest to get to work? The OPPOSITE? Who takes the "shortest"? ?

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#### kuleshov

##### Senior Member
When we talk about time we use the expression

It takes me an hour to get to work from home. So, if we compare we can say I take the longest, because I take 3 hours. What if someone says "It only takes me 5 minutes." ? It takes them "the least time" or "the shortest" ?

I don't know how to say that it takes someone the minimum amount of time to go from one place to another when compared to other people.

Help!!

#### kuleshov

##### Senior Member
Thanks a lot Ewie,

So, if I am talking to my friends, I could ask them: "Who takes the least time to get to work?

And "shortest" would be used to talk about distance, for example: We all took a taxi from the airport, but my taxi driver took the shortest way.

Anyway, in an informal conversation about time, I'd say "I take the longest." meaning 3 hours to get to work. Can the person who takes the least time say: "I take the least." Or shoud they say "I take the least time."?

Cheers

#### ewie

##### Senior Member
Thanks a lot Ewie,

So, if I am talking to my friends, I could ask them: "Who takes the least time to get to work?

And "shortest" would be used to talk about distance, for example: We all took a taxi from the airport, but my taxi driver took the shortest way.or 'route'

Anyway, in an informal conversation about time, I'd say "I take the longest." meaning 3 hours to get to work. Can the person who takes the least time say: "I take the least." Or shoud they say "I take the least time."?
I think, Kuleshov, the problem arises from the fact that in the longest, 'time' is understood, whereas with the least/shortest it isn't.

Cheers

#### SocioLog

##### New Member
I would respond: Who takes the least amount of time to get to work?
that is one option.

You can't always translate directly..... I taught ESL for a year.

#### kuleshov

##### Senior Member
Really? Don't you think that if we use "take" and "time", it is perfectly understood? What I mean is, in informal colloquial English, would everybody use "amount"? Doesn't it sound a bit formal? I mean, something you write but don't use in spoken English?

I couldn't say, because I'm Spanish, but I try to sound natural when I speak in English. I don't want to sound like a book.

Cheers.

#### JamesM

##### Senior Member
First of all, "who takes the longest to get to work" isn't really clear in itself.

"Who takes the longest to get ready for work" makes sense to me. In this case, it's the person who is eating up the time, not the commute.

To ask who has the longest drive or who has the longest commute I wouldn't say "who takes the longest". It's not the person who is taking the time, it's the trip.

"Who has the longest commute to work? Who has the shortest?"
"Whose commute takes the longest time? Whose takes the shortest?"

#### ewie

##### Senior Member
Sorry, JamesM, but I'm inclined to agree with Kuleshov here.

All this is from a colloquial/informal BE standpoint: Who takes the longest to get to work? is perfectly clear. Longest means longest period of time, just as it does in your the longest to get ready for work ~ I don't really discern much difference between the two, to be honest.

If the dialogue went like this:
A: Let's talk about routes to work.
B: Yes, let's. Who takes the longest to get to work?
C: Mine's 23 miles.
D: I can beat that ~ mine's 44.
then I'd agree with you without reserve.

Or, we might well use your versions with the noun commute ~ though I can imagine a lot of BE speakers wouldn't.

#### JamesM

##### Senior Member
Or, we might well use your versions with the noun commute ~ though I can imagine a lot of BE speakers wouldn't.
I guess I think about the length of time that your daily commute takes as not necessarily being directly related to the number of miles. For example, if I have to walk a portion of the way and take three buses because the routes are not convenient, I might travel fewer miles than someone else but it might take me longer to get there.

To me, "who takes the longest to get ready to go out" means "who spends the most time (of their own free will) to get ready". "Who takes the longest to get to work" could be read as "who dawdles on the way to work", if you catch my meaning. In other words, let's say I and a friend live on the same block and work at the same place. I can imagine saying:

"Chris and I live on the same block and work in the same building, he takes twice as long to get to work as I do. I've never understood what takes him so long."

I'm not saying that I wouldn't understand "who takes the longest to get to work" in context, but it's an awkward construction, in my opinion, because it implies the reason for the length of time is a matter of choice rather than a function of the distance, route, or mode of transportation. That may just be me.

#### ewie

##### Senior Member
I'm not saying that I wouldn't understand "who takes the longest to get to work" in context, but it's an awkward construction, in my opinion, because it implies the reason for the length of time is a matter of choice rather than a function of the distance, route, or mode of transportation. That may just be me.
Okay, James, I understand your angle now, but I think we're going to have to agree to differ on this one: to my ear who takes the longest is an entirely neutral shorthand for for whom does it take the longest period of time.
If I was asking (as per your interpretation) Who dawdles the most? I might ask (in informal BE) Who takes longest? ~ without the. Please don't ask me why omitting the should make a difference

#### JamesM

##### Senior Member
Okay, James, I understand your angle now, but I think we're going to have to agree to differ on this one: to my ear who takes the longest is an entirely neutral shorthand for for whom does it take the longest period of time.
I'm fine with disagreeing.

Getting back on-topic here, I'm curious why "who takes the longest" is neutral shorthand for you for "for whom does it take the longest period of time" but "who takes the shortest" is not shorthand for "for whom does it take the shortest period of time." Any ideas? Could it be simply that it's rare to speak about how short a time it takes to get to work but common to speak about how long, so the common one had a "shortcut" developed for it?

#### cirrus

##### Senior Member
Getting back on-topic here, I'm curious why "who takes the longest" is neutral shorthand for you for "for whom does it take the longest period of time" but "who takes the shortest" is not shorthand for "for whom does it take the shortest period of time."
Strange isn't it? I wonder it's a psychological thing. The minute you start on something tedious like going to or from work, you focus on what you are going to do next rather than what you are doing now?

A similar phenomenon strikes me with flying. Flying out to somewhere new is interesting, whereas the flight back always seems more tiring even if it takes the same amount of time. Do we discount the familiar and wind ourselves up imagining we are already somewhere other than where we are? Look at regular commuters, that bored, barely contained look of irritation on their faces - in their heads they are already somewhere else and time goes really slowly as a result.

#### Blues Piano Man

##### Senior Member
First of all, "who takes the longest to get to work" isn't really clear in itself.

"Who takes the longest to get ready for work" makes sense to me. In this case, it's the person who is eating up the time, not the commute.

To ask who has the longest drive or who has the longest commute I wouldn't say "who takes the longest". It's not the person who is taking the time, it's the trip.

"Who has the longest commute to work? Who has the shortest?"
"Whose commute takes the longest time? Whose takes the shortest?"
James, I agree with your first statement. If the context is right, "who takes the longest to get to work" would be clear. But if it comes out of the blue, I'd have to think about it a little. I might even ask, "Do you mean time? Or distance?" Although I think I'm more literal-minded than most people, so maybe I'm not a good reference on this.

If someone asked, "Who takes the longest to get ready for work," I wouldn't have a problem with that. It's obviously about time, because distance has nothing to do with it (I assume this is referring to taking a shower, eating breakfast, and things like that).

"Who has the longest commute to work? Who has the shortest?"
"Whose commute takes the longest time? Whose takes the shortest?"
- Those all sound great.

Blues

#### ewie

##### Senior Member
Getting back on-topic here, I'm curious why "who takes the longest" is neutral shorthand for you for "for whom does it take the longest period of time" but "who takes the shortest" is not shorthand for "for whom does it take the shortest period of time." Any ideas?
As I hinted at in post #4 (but was too lazy to go into then), I think it has something to do with the word long, which exists as an adverb of time in its own right, while short doesn't.

I've long wondered why this should be.
The longer you struggle, the more it will hurt.
He who laughs longest laughs most annoyingly.

Put crudely, long somehow contains 'time' ...

#### Blues Piano Man

##### Senior Member
As I hinted at in post #4 (but was too lazy to go into then), I think it has something to do with the word long, which exists as an adverb of time in its own right, while short doesn't.

I've long wondered why this should be.
The longer you struggle, the more it will hurt.
He who laughs longest laughs most annoyingly.

Put crudely, long somehow contains 'time' ...
Hi Ewie,

But I think that maybe your examples work because distance (or some other type of span) does not apply to any of them. Time is the only measurable span that is applicable.

The question, "How long was your trip?" leaves doubt as to whether we're speaking of distance or time. Both are applicable to trips. I realize that "long" is an adjective here. Maybe that's the difference.

For what it's worth, here are two definition for long as an adverb from M-W. One addresses time, one distance:
1 : for or during a long time <long a popular hangout>
2 : at or to a long distance : far <long-traveled>
I'm wide open for further enlightenment.

Blues

#### ewie

##### Senior Member
1 : for or during a long time <long a popular hangout>
2 : at or to a long distance : far <long-traveled>

Hello, BPM. It doesn't happen often but you've (finally!) provoked me into doing a bit of research.
The SOED* gives seven definitions for long the adverb. The first six are all to do with time. The last reads as follows:
7 [obsolete]. At or to a great or a specified distance in space; far (rare) ~ 1586.
(The COED** omits this sense altogether).
I'm increasingly thinking that there's some subtle transatlantic difference here. To my British ear long only ever could, only ever does apply to a period of time. Your long-traveled (from M-W) sounds pretty weird to me!

* Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (2672pp)
** Concise " " " (1260pp)

#### Blues Piano Man

##### Senior Member
1 : for or during a long time <long a popular hangout>
2 : at or to a long distance : far <long-traveled>

Hello, BPM. It doesn't happen often but you've (finally!) provoked me into doing a bit of research.
The SOED* gives seven definitions for long the adverb. The first six are all to do with time. The last reads as follows:
7 [obsolete]. At or to a great or a specified distance in space; far (rare) ~ 1586.
(The COED** omits this sense altogether).
I'm increasingly thinking that there's some subtle transatlantic difference here. To my British ear long only ever could, only ever does apply to a period of time. Your long-traveled (from M-W) sounds pretty weird to me!

* Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (2672pp)
** Concise " " " (1260pp)
Hi Ewie,
Well, I'm happy to be the motivation for such dilligence. Good for you!

I mostly agree with you, too. Maybe I've been playing Devil's Advocate to some degree.

When I first read, "Who takes the longest to get to work," I did see a possibility for distance. But sometimes, here in the Forum, I'm influenced by the fact that I am in the Forum. I can't always tell what my reaction would be in a real life conversation.

Since M-W gives the distance alternative as number 2, perhaps there is a good AE example of it. I admit I haven't been able to think of one.

To get back on topic...
Sorry, kuleshov. I see that we've gotten away from the original question of longest vs. shortest.

...can say I take the longest, because I take 3 hours. What if someone says "It only takes me 5 minutes." ? It takes them "the least time" or "the shortest" ?
If you in fact say, "At three hours, I think I take the longest to work." I think someone could legimately answer, "I must take the shortest. It's only five minutes for me."

Another word to consider when talking about shortest length of time would be "quickest."

Hope that helps,
Blues

#### JamesM

##### Senior Member
As I hinted at in post #4 (but was too lazy to go into then), I think it has something to do with the word long, which exists as an adverb of time in its own right, while short doesn't.

I've long wondered why this should be.
The longer you struggle, the more it will hurt.
He who laughs longest laughs most annoyingly.

Put crudely, long somehow contains 'time' ...
Maybe it is a difference between AE and BE. "We only had a short wait before we got to see the doctor" would be a normal sentence to me and would be referring to time. Another would be "I'm sorry your visit was so short." This is also a time-related comment.

"It's a long way" has to do with distance, not time, doesn't it?

The differences must be very subtle because none of us are stating anything unequivocally. I imagine kuleshov had no idea what can of worms he/she was opening with this question.

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