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5. How far/how long/how big/how …

# How far/how long/how big/how small/how large?

I find myself struggling with these questions. How much is combien. That's easy but when it comes to other ones, j'ai fait du mal.

How long does it take to drive from Paris to Berlin? = Combien de temps ça prend pour conduire de Paris à Berlin ?

How far is it from Paris to Berlin? = À quelle distance c'est de Paris à Berlin ?

How big were the hailstones? = Quelles sont les tailles de la grêle?

Do those sound right? Are there better ways of asking because yes "how big" is a question about the size of things but asking "what are the size of things" sounds a bit weird? Merci.

July 31, 2017

How long does it take to drive from Paris to Berlin? = Combien de temps ça prend pour conduire de Paris à Berlin ? -- Correct but a bit awkward ('Combien de temps ça prend, pour aller de Paris à Berlin en voiture ?' would be better). A more natural (and informal) question could be: 'Il faut combien de temps pour aller de Paris à Berlin en voiture ?'

How far is it from Paris to Berlin? = À quelle distance c'est de Paris à Berlin ? -- Incorrect. Simpler: 'Quelle est la distance de Paris à Berlin/entre Paris et Berlin ?' More natural (and informal): 'Il y a combien de kilomètres entre Paris et Berlin ?'

How big were the hailstones? = Quelles sont les tailles de la grêle? -- Incorrect. The size does not need to be plural, and 'grêle' is hail, not hailstone. Correct: 'Quelle était la taille des grêlons ?' Informal: 'Ils étaient de quelle grosseur/Ils étaient gros comment, les grêlons ?'

Okay, this has certainly cleared some things. So are there virtually no instances when «À quel point» is required when asking a ''how'' question like this? The example given would cause me a headache. We can always use «Quel est le» or «Combien de»?

For similar informal examples, would we always use «de»? If I wanted to say ''how hot is it ouside'', I would write/say «il fait de quelle chaleur dehors»?

I have the same challenge. I always end up asking quelle est la température dehors?

Surely that would be like asking for the exact temperature, which may sound a bit over-pedantic.

''How'' in this sense is very difficult (or even impossible) to directly translate indeed. I'm also a learner of French, and I usually say things similar to that. Personally I would be more likely to say «Quelle est la distance entre Paris et Berlin», but I'm not saying you should, that's just me.

I think we can also to some extent use «À quel point» as a somewhat translation of «how»... par exemple: «À quel point est la grêle large»... you know what it translates to. Again, as a learner I won't tell you what you should use, but I too would like to know about the correctness and instances where we can use «À quel point». I have no doubts a French person would understand fine if you said any of those, but ''are they correct/bizarre'' is a good question.

Also, I'm fairly certain «j'ai du mal» is fine, no need for «j'ai fait». I say that having seen du mal many times.

Merci, Midnightwards. How would say "how long is this table?" Quelle est la longeur de cette table ? Maybe it just takes practice but right now it sounds clumsy to me.

The English way and the French way are different, so it may sound clumsy to us no matter how we say it. It's not for me to advise how to say, I am a learner like you, and I too would like to know... but for now, we can at least know a French person would understand. We could possibly say «À quel point est cette table longue», if let's say we knew the word for ''long'' but not ''length'', but again I would like someone to verify the correctness of that sentence too. I'm glad this topic has been brought up.

'À quel point est cette table longue' does not work at all, sorry. :)

If we were using 'à quel point', we could say: 'À quel point cette table est-elle longue ?' But 'à quel point' cannot be used with length.

It seems ''à quel point" means how, how much, to what extent, etc., depending on context, but as you pointed out, it cannot be used with length. Can you tell me the rules on how and when to use it? I googled it but it all just tells me what it is and not how to use it.

'To what extent' is a good translation. 'À quel point' only means 'how' and 'how much' when 'how' and 'how much' mean 'to what extent'. :)

Ex: 'Tu ne peux pas savoir à quel point je suis déçu.' ('You have no idea how disappointed I am.')

Ex: 'Tu ne peux pas savoir à quel point je t'aime.' ('You have no idea how much I love you.')

Thanks, Marc. C'est clair. Now the challenge is to remember to use it at the right time :-)

'Quelle est la longueur de cette table ?' is correct.

It is actually 'how big/small/large/long/far' that is clumsy, methinks. ;-)

If you also need an informal version: 'Elle fait combien en longueur/Elle mesure combien, cette table ?'

Hehe. Sorry for calling your language clumsy. These questions come up in my conversations a lot but they don't roll of my tongues. I always struggle to express them, hence the feeling of clumsiness, but of course, it's me, not the language.

I only meant that the English 'shortcuts' ('like 'How big is...' or 'Yes, I am') are not always possible in French. This is why we ask things like 'Quelle est la taille de...'). But we also have our own shortcuts, which are much clumsier.

In 19th-century books, on Google Books:

• "What is the distance from": 41,000
• "How far is it from": 10,600

(In the past, people had some vocabulary.)

It's a bit more complicated. We don't say «comment grand est la chaise» in French. :)