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  5. "¿Cuántos años tienes?"

"¿Cuántos años tienes?"

Translation:How old are you?

December 29, 2012

This discussion is locked.


It's an idiomatic expression. I think the issue is less a question of them accepting the literal translation, and more of giving mention of it as an idiomatic expression before the lesson starts.

Perhaps at least at first these questions could even be flagged as idiomatic expressions depending on what level you're at on the site, so you know it's not the literal they're looking for. I think to accept the literal translation would be confusing and misleading, just like in many other cases of idiomatic expressions used on the site.

There's quite a few of these you'll encounter as you go through the lessons on here.


On the one hand, I have to agree with you that it should be specially treated as an idiomatic expression. It's totally fair! However, the way it is displayed, without any warning or clue, is similar to the way we'd have encountered it in real time speech. Then by trial and error we would spot the special use, assign the correct meaning, "highlight" it in our vocabulary, and finally master the meaning of the phrase on the fly.


I kind of agree, but I'm glad that's not how DL does it. By throwing you right into it, you're learning how Spanish idioms work, so you're more prepared to understand them when new ones are thrown at you in the real world. Giving you the answer would deprive you of the practice you get from reading "how-many-years-do-you-have" and connecting the dots, or maybe missing that connection and then thinking a little harder next time such a puzzle presents itself. You should have seen my face the first time I lost a heart over "qu'est ce que..." but now I know it a thousand times better after working it out word for word. The frustration is painful though.


I think the issue is not whether or not the translation is correct -- it is definitely a common idiomatic expression. But the point is that Duolingo should have a mechanism for teaching idiomatic expressions beyond the user getting the question wrong and wondering why. Maybe something similar to the photo panels?


It is not an idiom. An idiom is something that sounds ridiculous and doesn't literally mean what it is saying.

"It's raining cats and dogs" = "We have heavy rain"

"Hold your horses" = Be patient

No one's going to believe that there's animals falling out of the sky or that you are able to hold a horse! Because it is absurd, it is called an idiom.


Or having a lesson step that introduces the common idioms related to the just-learned material.


Again-Get over it-- LEARN by your mistakes---thus the discussions!


If this is an sentence means "how old are you?", how would someone ask how many years some one has for prison, AA, or that sort of thing where "how many years do you have?" is actually what's being asked.


Well, I'm not a native speaker, but nobody has answered your question so I'll take a guess. I'm guessing that they would add another word to clarify. You can get some examples of real world usage if you search for a phrase on http://www.linguee.es/ (it will give you some things that are relevant and a lot that are not, but it's the best way to do contextual analysis).

e.g. from http://www.eco-index.org/new/stories/2010/aprils.cfm

¿Cuántos años de experiencia tiene en la producción de café?

Which is translated by the site to this:

How many years have you been a coffee farmer?

But translated literally, it's this:

How many years of experience do you have in the production of coffee?

So I'm guessing that in the case of AA, they would ask how many years of sobriety, and in the case of prison, how many years of prison, etc. Or they might phrase it differently using past/future tense; I'm not sure.

EDIT: for sobriety, I think llevar is used more often than tener. Look at the usage here: http://www.linguee.es/espanol-ingles/search?source=auto=a%F1os+de+sobriedad

And if you go to Google translate and put in this:

¿Cuántos años de sobriedad tienes?

It comes out as this:

How many years of sobriety have?

But if you put in this:

¿Cuántos años de sobriedad llevas?

It comes out right:

How many years have you been sober?


I have been observing many people posting links from other spanish teaching sites. So is it not completely advisable to rely solely on Duolingo?


I think of DL as useful exercises rather than a way to learn the ins and outs of grammar. Use as many sources as you can find, to get as wide a range of explanations as possible.


Duolingo is awesome, but no one learning resource should be used alone.


Would it be appropriate to also accept the literal translation as a correct answer? "How many years do you have?"


I think this might be a little misleading to new learners. It's tricky because it's an idiomatic expression.


I gave the answer "how many years do you have?" and it was marked incorrect. However I think it should have been correct in that it was the literal translation. If duolingo had some distinction of idiomatic expressions I might say otherwise, but everything so far seems to be literal so that was a surprise.


I actually gave that answer and it was accepted. Yay! :D


Wasn't accepted here.


I wasn't accepted either, but now I know that is what is expected by a Spanish speaker.


I would say yes, it would be appropriate. Speaking of age as years you have is, while fairly outdated, still part of English usage as well.


I would not know this if it wasn't for Spanish class..perhaps the whole phrase should be highlighted as a new concept so new learners won't automatically be wrong.


I got this because the idiom is the same in French. But otherwise it is tricky.

Having said that, so what? If you get it wrong you lose a heart. It can help remind you that, as you progress and become fluent, that you don't always literally translate.


The answer came as a complete surprise but then I must admit had I thought more about it I would have realized my response made no sense in English. It is a reminder for me to think about the intention, not just the words. What is "old" in Spanish?


Basically viejo: existing from long time. The English form to ask a person's age sounds rare to Spanish.

Other forms heard in Spanish are, as well: ¿Qué edad tienes? - ¿Cuál es tu edad?


Are not 'How old are you?' and 'How young are you?' logically equivalent? When I ticked 'How young are you?' I lost a heart...


This comment should be on top and receive the most thumbs ups. I am using the mobile app so I cannot give any lingot. If I was on a PC I would have given you a lingot. But giving a lingot doesn't justify how much I liked this comment. It's one of the best ever I had on this site.

Just shows you how funny English actually is and flawed as well


While, I guess, you could say it is technically correct, it's not something we say in English...at least not here in America.


That's coz you grow older year by year. At 50, if someone says I am 50 years young, what they imply is age wise they may be 50 years old but they still feel young.


i translate "how many years do you have" and it is acceptable. But in real life i dont think it is understandable to ask that


I m getting confused with all this... If I ask a cancer patient "how many years do you have?", how should I say it in Spanish


Maybe ¿Cuántos años le quedan?

I'm not an expert, though, this is just my guess. I'm sure they have some way to ask that.


Quedan means what? and there should be a 'tienes' somewhere for 'have'


It means "remain", like "how many years remain for you". Anyway, it is just my guess, and we need a native Spanish speaker here because I may be wrong.


Be careful not to ask 'cuantos anos tienes?' as I did once.


Don't see what's wrong w/it. Does not having the accents give it different meaning?


yes; "año" means "year", while "ano" means "anus"


Mi papá tiene 40 años: My father is 40 years old. Mi papa tiene 40 anos: my potato has 40 anuses. This is why accents are important.


But sometimes is very dificult with all those accents...because our keyboards don t alllow us to use them. (it depence on witch keyboard you use)


I just added 'spanish' as a keyboard language in windows, then use 'Alt+Shift' to switch between them. I have remembered where all the special keys are.


I just downloaded this program for accent shortcuts: http://www.onehourprogramming.com/spanish-accents/ Highly recommended (windows)! Just press caps + your letter of choice for accented version. Finally a good use for CAPS!


On a Mac, precede a letter with option-e to add an accent. That is, ó is option-e followed by o. Precede n or N with option-n to add a tilde. Precede u with option-u to add an umlaut. Use option-? and option-1 to get upside down ¿ and ¡. Note that with question mark, you are also holding down shift as you usually do for question mark.


Try using "ALT e" and "ALT n" for é and ñ, respectively, and "ALT u" for ü which is sometimes used as in "penqüino".


LOL You totally made my day :D


Lol. And they say english is the hardest language. You know, I'm sure it is but I'll never ever be able to remember those accents.


In Russian you speak with accents but you don't write them except for children's books, you have to remember them all. English is hard with its non-intuitive pronunciation but overall it is quite easy until late stages. Good luck :)


Of course you can, if you write them out enough times you'll remember them. The 'ñ' is easy to remember because it's classed as a completely different letter than the 'n'. Hope this helps you.


very different


Spanish n is a separate letter in the alphabet, not just an accent indicating emphasis so it isn't an accent here, it is a different phoneme/vowel. The difference is like sheet and sh!t. Different vowels.



I was too afraid to ask.


accents are the commas of spanish. they save lives.


the ~ above the 'n' (ñ) is called a tilde I believe, the accents are just for the vowels.


thats what I meant. thx


I doubt that any of you would actually ask "How many years do you have?" when you are interested in the age of someone.


No, I wouldn't ask it that way, but it is a literal translation.


But we're not all here to learn literal translations of words. If you wanted to do that, you could just get a English-Spanish dictionary.

We are here to learn how to converse in Spanish. So you have to learn that when someone asks you "¿Cuántos años tienes?" they're asking how old you are, and not how many years you have left on a prison sentence or something like that.


So how do you ask how many years do you have? E.g. for remaining prison term, remaining term to retirement etc. Thanks in advance.


See the excellent reply a couple of posts above this one


If I was speaking spanish, thats exactly what I would ask.


This is such a tough sentence to translate from English into Spanish for the simple reason that the Spanish literal translation is "How many years have you or you have?" which is nothing at all like "How old are you?"! A classic case of really having to think about how the Spanish language would construct this sentence.


Just as a side note: many European languages (for example, French and Italian ) also have the exact same logic, as in Spanish, while others ( German) use the same structure as English . I think this has something to do with the origin of the language; if I have to guess all Latin/"Romance" languages would have the construction "how many years you have", while Germanic group languages will use the "how old are you".


Learning literal translations is important so you can understand the syntax and the logic behind the grammar. You don't get that from translated-as-intended like you do from translated-as-written. The fact that it offers "how old are you" as another acceptable answer bridges the gap of understanding between the message as written and as intended.


i translated it as "how many years do you have" and it is still correct? is it really correct?


Not exactly. I suppose this is only accepted because most people can't guess "How old are you" without any previous experience in learning Spanish. So, when you can't guess, you enter a literal translation and later read the comments and learn the idiom.


Well you probably don't want to ask that these days..........


The literal translation is "How many years do you have?", why is that not accepted?


Because that's not really what it MEANS. As a native speaker, I would never say this if I wanted to know how old someone was. And so Duolingo is teaching us the correct Spanish way to ask for someone's age.


I like to take sentences literally, but here, as “Cuantos” means “how many” and “tienes” is literally, “you have” you have to assume that it means “how old are you?” instead of “How many years do you have?” which sounds dumb.


Works if you put How old are you?


I think my answer, "How many years do you have?" which was graded incorrect, is superior to one of the "correct" answers, "How many years are you?" However, I do believe the best "correct" answer is, "How old are you?"


Why is "How many years do you have?" considered wrong? I know that the phrase is for asking how old someone is, but why is the literal translation incorrect?


Because of a traditional mindset in language education that (1) the literal is almost always wrong and (2) that somehow the English-speaking mind cannot process the concept that age, fear and a host of other things can be conditions we have rather than things we are. This, even though virtually every other European language expresses things in this way.


That's explained it very well, thank you. Is that why you would say "tengo calor" instead of "estoy calor" in Spanish, too?


Exactly. ;-)


OK, this is ridiculous. We're not just supposed to translate the sentence, we're supposed to change the sentence into the type of thing English speakers would be more likely to say?

[deactivated user]

    I'd argue it's equally important to know both the literal and idiomatic meaning. That's how all the translation works...


    You're not supposed to do either.

    You're supposed to think about how this sentence would be constructed in Spanish, which bears no relationship whatsoever to the English sentence structure. Yes, English and Spanish grammar and sentence construction are quite different - understanding those differences is the key to translating backwards and forwards between them.


    It is true that the "correct" answers switch between word-for-word translation and translation into "natural English", and this is certainly a case of that. As was stated, this is more of an idiom in Spanish but it conveys the same syntax. Maybe prefacing some of the idioms with slides explaining them before quizzing them would be a good change and help with some of the ire being generated by some of these questions.


    It would help keep you from guessing


    Err yes. It's what we are learning, sometimes slowly and laboriously, to do here. To learn what a native speaker would say.


    Why isn't "How many years old?" right?


    It doesn't work as a full English sentence.

    If we were talking about something and you wanted an age repeated, you might say "How many years old?" but it wouldn't be complete when out of context.


    This is an idiom and besides that there isn't a subject/object in your response. It could I suppose be assumed within the context of a conversation.


    Because it "tienes" means "you have". In "How many years old?" there is no "you".


    Lol! I wrote how many years do you have? :D


    why how many yeard are you ? is wrong??


    the literal translation how many years do you have sounds like your asking how long someones prison sentence is


    got past easily with "how many years do you have?".


    doesn't tienes mean have. well i typed the same


    it means YOU have


    how many years do you have? :P


    Why is "how many years you have" not accepted ?


    It's really Spanish for "How old are you?" although I think it accepts a more literal translation. In your translation you miss out an essential word. To make it proper English, you would need to say "How many years do you have?".

    But, as I said above, this isn't really the meaning.


    Still don't understand why it isn't cuantos anos eres


    How many years do you have??


    Or, as we would say "How old are you?"


    Tienes translates to "are" great!


    I translated "how many years have you/" and it was wrong. The translation was literal, so I do not understand why it was wrong.


    help because i learnt from a proper spanish teacher that the translation for this is how many years do you have, it marked it wrong, is duolingo stupid/ help please


    That is a literal translation but the meaning is "How old are you?" In this case, Duo is correct.


    I got it wrong- How many years do you have? ....as in -how long will u live? :-p duo isnt that rude!


    So in this case we are to conclude that "How many years do you have?" references "How old are you?" ... Are we learning by assumption or are we logically translating as would a computer... A computer program would need to have a "fix" or "patch" for this phrase to make the output correct/acceptable.


    is it the formal way to ask "how old are you" ?


    In my experience, it's the normal way to ask someone their age.


    ¿Cuántos años tienes? dont make sence


    Not in English - but this is Spanish and it's a different language with different ways of saying things.


    could it, ya know, not make you get it incorrect and tell you this is how you do it?


    @KaiHunter I think it does. You get it wrong and it tells you the correct answer. At least, that's what happens when I (frequently) get things wrong.


    lol, I just know i'm gonna muck up !!!


    Every time i translate this i start off, "How many...years....wait the next one is tienes?.......oh! Right, right. back space How old are you?"


    Shouldn't the literal meaning be fine ? ,i.e., "how many years do you have?" as in if someone is having cancer and has few years left to live? Or if someone has to complete a task within some no.of years,etc ,etc....


    Shouldn't the literal meaning be fine ? ,i.e., "how many years do you have?" as in if someone is having cancer and has few years left to live? Or if someone has to complete a task within some no.of years,etc


    why isn't this how many years do you have?


    Is it equal with: How old are you?


    ...i wrote "How many years do you have?"...it was both morbid and incorrect.


    "How many years do you have?" is also correct, though not counted as correct.


    Your translation is literal. However it is correct-ish only and not considered correct by Duo, because whenever you would ask "How old are you?" in English, a Spanish speaker would ask "¿Cuántos años tienes?" (tú - one person, informally), "¿Cuántos años tenéis?" (vosotros - multiple people, informally), "¿Cuántos años tiene?" (usted - one person, formally) or "¿Cuántos años tienen?" (ustedes - multiple people, formally). From all these possibilities "¿Cuántos años tienes?" is by far the most common. Some things can be translated literally, and they would make sense, but some cannot. Languages differ and we have to live with it. ;) Cheers.


    True. But the user should be told this is an idiomatic expression and that the answer is not literal.


    You're right, Duolingo isn't perfect ;) But I think it is a fine starting point on the way to master the language.


    Agreed :) Especially for free.


    Doesn't tienes mean have(your)? So shouldn't this translate to how many years do you have? or couldn't I say ¿Cuántos años eres tu?


    Tengo treinta años hoy


    I thought tienes meant have not are and you. And i thought Cuantos meant how much


    I keep thinking its ' how many years do you have '

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