1 : Comment voulez-vous que je m'y prenne ?

= "How do you want me to go about it?"

The 1st sentence is straightforward enough, but the exact meaning in the 2nd throws me off.

Also, how would you paraphrase the 2nd if it didn’t occur to you to use this expression?

2 : Comment voulez-vous qu’ils aient eu le temps de commettre un tel crime ?

2 Answers 2


The second sentence expresses apparent impossibility or logical dubiousness.

It's similar to the following:

Comment pouvez-vous croire qu'ils ont eu le temps de commettre un tel crime ?

Or, if not replying to anyone, it may be that you are dumbfounded, looking forward to an explaination.

Comment ont-ils bien pu avoir le temps de commetre un tel crime ?!

  • @LUNA, both are possible. No difference in meaning. Perhaps the subjunctive version is less tainted with mockery. I cannot explain. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 23:28

"Comment veux-tu" and "Comment voulez-vous" are often use to underline that the following statement is impossible. Basically you're asking the person to find a way it could have happened, so they realize it can't.

Kind of a similar idea to "How do you expect me to focus with all this noise ?!" ("Comment voulez-vous que je me concentre avec tout ce bruit ?!")

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