How to Say “How Long” in Chinese

When learning a new language like Chinese, basic questions such as asking for the length of time are essential. This guide will provide you with various ways to ask “how long” in Chinese, both formally and informally. Additionally, we will cover a few regional variations that might come in handy. Let’s dive in!

Formal Ways to Say “How Long”

If you want to express a formal tone when asking about duration in Chinese, you can use the following phrases:

1. 多长时间 (duō cháng shí jiān)

This is the most common and straightforward way to ask “how long” in formal Chinese. It literally translates to “how much time?” which is equivalent to asking “how long?”.


你在这里等了多长时间? (Nǐ zài zhèlǐ děng le duō cháng shí jiān?) – How long have you been waiting here?

2. 有多久 (yǒu duō jiǔ)

This phrase can also be used in formal situations. It translates to “how long,” specifically in terms of time. While it has a similar meaning to “多长时间,” it is slightly less common.


这个项目需要完成有多久? (Zhège xiàngmù xūyào wánchéng yǒu duō jiǔ?) – How long does this project need to be completed?

Informal Ways to Say “How Long”

If you prefer a more casual approach, you can use these informal phrases:

1. 多久了 (duō jiǔ le)

This expression is commonly used in informal conversations among friends or peers. It’s a simplified version of “多长时间” and can be translated as “how long already” or “how long has it been?”


你学中文多久了? (Nǐ xué zhōngwén duō jiǔ le?) – How long have you been learning Chinese?

2. 多久没见 (duō jiǔ méi jiàn)

When you want to ask someone how long it has been since you last saw them, this phrase comes in handy. It translates to “how long since we last met?” or “how long haven’t we seen each other?”


我们多久没见面了? (Wǒmen duō jiǔ méi jiàn miàn le?) – How long has it been since we last met?

Regional Variations

Chinese is a rich and diverse language, with some regional variations in different parts of China. While the phrases mentioned above are widely understood throughout the country, there are a few regional variations worth mentioning:

1. 多长时间啊 (duō cháng shí jiān a)

The addition of the final particle “啊” at the end of the phrase is more commonly used in northern China, especially in Beijing and surrounding areas. It adds a touch of local flavor to the question.


你怎么才来啊?多长时间啊! (Nǐ zěnme cái lái a? Duō cháng shí jiān a!) – Why did it take you so long to come? How long exactly!

2. 多久了呢 (duō jiǔ le ne)

In some parts of southwestern China, particularly Sichuan province, people often use the word “呢” at the end of the phrase to ask “how long has it been?” or “how long already?” The usage of “呢” gives the question a distinct local flavor.


这家餐厅开了多久了呢? (Zhè jiā cāntīng kāi le duō jiǔ le ne?) – How long has this restaurant been open?

Tips and Examples

Here are some additional tips and examples to help you understand and apply the phrases effectively:

  • When using these phrases, remember to adjust the word order accordingly and place the subject and verb in the correct position.
  • It’s common to use quantifiers or time words after the question phrases to specify the type of duration. For example, “一段时间” (yī duàn shí jiān) means “a period of time,” “几天” (jǐ tiān) means “a few days,” or “半小时” (bàn xiǎo shí jiān) means “half an hour.”
  • In everyday conversations, Chinese people often use gestures or facial expressions to indicate the length of time they are referring to. Paying attention to these nonverbal cues will help you understand the context better.

Now that you have learned various formal and informal ways to ask “how long” in Chinese, practice using these phrases in different situations. With time and practice, you’ll become more proficient in asking about duration in Mandarin Chinese!

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Written by Gilbert Kieran

你好! I'm Gilbert! Language, wordplay and exploration of diverse cultures captivates me. I'm thrilled to share my passion for Chinese language - a far cry from my earlier days of aviation photography. Off keyboard, you'll likely find me exploring local cuisines (点心是我的最爱) or unwinding with anime series. My posts strive to bridge cultural gaps one phrase at a time and inject humor into language learning. Through my posts, I hope to inspire your linguistic journey, whether you're saying "I Love You" or "Good night.” in Chinese. Here's to making language learning fun! 祝你好运!

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