Today, we answer a question from Jorge in Colombia. He writes:
I’d like to know the difference between “how long” and “how much time.” When should I use them?
Thank you – from Jorge in Colombia
Thank you for your question. Both “how long” and “how much time” are used to ask about the amount of time something takes or has taken. But there are differences between the two. Let us take a look at them.
You will probably hear “how long” more than “how much time.” It can sound less formal than “how much time” and many speakers find it more natural. It often comes at the beginning of a question. Here are a few examples:
How long have you lived in Texas?
How long will you be at the store?
“How long” is often used with the present perfect verb tense. So, the questions you may want to ask will likely begin with “how long have you...” English speakers do not use “How long” directly before the word “time.” It is not correct to say “how long time.” However, you may hear, “how long a time” in some situations, as in this example:
How long a time will we have to wait for the test result?
How much time
“How much time” is more exact than “how long”. You will hear it at the beginning of a question. It is often used when asking about a shorter length of time.
English speakers may think it sounds a bit awkward to say “how much time” when not asking for or giving directions. For example, you might use “how much time” to ask for the amount of time it takes to cook something. Or, you might use “how much time” to ask for the estimated length of time it takes to do a task.
How much time does it take to cook rice?
How much time will it take to clean the house?
Thank you for the question, Jorge. I hope it did not take too much time for you to understand the answer!
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
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I’m Jill Robbins.
And I’m Greg Stachel.
Gregory Stachel wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
formal – adj. suitable for serious or official speech and writing
awkward – adj. not socially graceful or confident: uneasy or uncomfortable
task – n. a piece of work that has been given to someone: a job for someone to do
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