14

I know how to ask "how many times per [time period]", or "at which frequency", but what is the non-scientific way to ask "how often"?

15

You can use the expression tous les combien:

Tous les combien, interroge sur la fréquence : L'autobus passe tous les combien ?

Note there is no s at the end of combien since the latter is an invariable noun (masculine):

Le combien (nom masculin invariable), indique le quantième du mois, le rang : Le combien sommes-nous ? Le combien est-il au classement ?

6
  • 1
    While "tous les combien" should be understood in Canada I feel it's most probably only used in some countries.
    – ApplePie
    Jul 24 '14 at 15:50
  • 2
    @AlexandreP.Levasseur I heard it many times in France (Paris): I am pretty sure that most people (like 99% or more) there understand the expression. No idea about other French-speaking countries. Jul 24 '14 at 15:53
  • When I said "in some countries" I specifically meant France but thought maybe some other french-speaking countries use it too. I've noticed that the french spoken in some african countries is close to how it is used in France, especially in regions where arab is also used.
    – ApplePie
    Jul 24 '14 at 15:56
  • 1
    I myself never heard that expression. Though it is rather common for me to say or hear L'autobus passe à tous les combien de temps? (more complete version of the expression)
    – Sifu
    Jul 24 '14 at 16:57
  • 7
    @Sifu Interesting! à tous les combien de temps? would sound a bit weird in Paris. I guess it has regional variations. Jul 24 '14 at 16:59
14

There is no good direct translation I can think of, one would rather say “are you doing it often” and depending on the answer ask further “at which frequency”.

Allez-vous souvent à la piscine? (Are you often going to the swimming pool?)
Oui, régulièrement (Yes regularly)
Ah oui? À quelle fréquence ? (Really? How often?)
Deux fois par semaine (Twice a week)

1
  • 4
    "À quelle fréquence" would be my choice here. I do not think there is any real other choice.
    – ApplePie
    Jul 24 '14 at 15:51
3

Another alternative might be "Tu fais X combien de fois par semaine/mois/an...?" "How often do you go swimming". You must choose somewhere between weeks and years (for example)… which might lead to confusion:

Q: Tu vas à la piscine combien de fois par semaine?
A: Ça va pas, non? J'ai horreur de ça — j'y vais une fois par an maximum.

-2

I disagree with the "tous les combien". Never heard of that in France, except when used with a unit appended such as "tous les combien DE MINUTES" or "tous les combien DE TEMPS".

However I heard "tous les quand" a lot, as in "le bus passe tous les quand?". This is informal, obviously.

1
  • 3
    I'm quite surprised about your experience. Tous les combien without any unit appended is a well known and used expression in France. It is documented in Le bon usage, the TLFi, the Larousse and the Robert, to name a few. On the other hand, tous les quand, while not unused seems to me much rarer.
    – jlliagre
    Mar 21 at 20:17

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