Anne has made a new friend named Jane. They both want to become closer and so they ask each other deep questions.

Jane: What do you want out of this friendship?

Anne: I don’t know but I know how long I want it to be.

Is it « Je sais combien de temps que je le veux être. » ? Lol, I see that this happens to be the literal translation which makes me think that it’s incorrect.

  • 3
    Generally, in English I wouldn't say about friendship, "I know how long I want it to be". It does not sound idiomatic for this context. I think it is more plausible to say: I know how long I want it to last. How long do you want your trousers to be? How long do you want the class to be?
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 18:25
  • 1
    @Lambie Thank you for this! I can see now that It would indeed be more idiomatic to say “I know how long I want it to last.”
    – SFR
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 2:15
  • Ah, thank you for that. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


Durative "How long" is usually rendered by the interrogative adverb combien de temps, or combien for brevity.

I know how long I want it (to) last.

Je sais combien je veux qu'elle dure.

She wonders how much longer she'll have to wait.

Elle se demande combien de temps encore elle devra attendre.

How long did you say they were spending in custody?

Combien de temps avez-vous dit qu'ils demeuraient en garde-à-vue ?

I think French needs more words to achieve the same effect as your example :

— Jane: Qu'attends-tu de cette relation ?

— Anne: Je ne sais pas ce que j'en attends, mais ce dont je suis sûre, c'est combien je voudrais qu'elle dure.

Although Jusqu'à quand ("until when") works as well, it arguably doesn't sound as natural and might cause confusion in the absence of context : je sais jusqu'à quand je veux qu'elle dure (til death do us part? a specific event? etc.)

(P.S. Combien je voudrais qu'elle dure introduces the ambiguity that it could also mean How much I want it to last. If you mean to be specific about duration, use combien de temps je voudrais qu'elle dure.)

  • 1
    Qu'attends-tu de cette relation ? sounds very formal for a talk between friends. A more casual conversation would be more like T'attends quoi de cette relation ? Je sais pas mais...
    – jlliagre
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 21:25

Je ne sais pas mais je sais combien de temps je veux que cela dure.

Ou « qu’elle dure » si on se réfère à l’amitié.

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