7

Consider the following dialogue. (What it actually describes is not of importance.)

“It’s far away.”
“But how far?”
“Too far.”

I would like to translate the middle question so that the use of lejos is mirrored throughout:

—Está lejos.
???
—Demasiado lejos.

The only interrogative I can surmise for use with lejos is cuán, but even that seems sketchy. I know that I could use «Pero ¿a qué distancia?», but this flow does not feel natural, because (1) it introduces a different phrase than the prior speaker used and (2) the speaker might be interpreted as asking for a precise measurement (e.g., «Está a veintiséis kilómetros de aquí») when the question might actually be rhetorical in nature.

What is appropriate? Am I misunderstanding some subtle nuance?

Edit: Context: I’m an international student living in the United States. I speak or have repeatedly spoken with people from a broad range of dialects, including (in no specific order) Puerto Rico, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Spain and native Estadounidense. I came upon this question as a hypothetical. (I like to try to translate what I say, read or hear in everyday life as a way to ensure I build an ample vocabulary.) The answers already given reflect this, but if there are differences across regions or media, I would like to know. :)

  • 1
    As you see, the answers you are getting depend heavily on the country, so it would be a good idea to specify which country do you currently reside in, or the targeted country for the translation. You can add regional tags or just comment it on the text of the question. Doing so will grant you better answers. – Charlie Jan 11 '18 at 9:38
  • May be add another sentence like: —Está lejos. — ¿Cuánto tardaríamos? —Demasiado. – Manuel Jan 11 '18 at 12:34
  • @ChaseRyanTaylor - Well, in the US one needs to know who you're communicating with. (And also, whether it's formal or informal, written or spoken -- but thank you, you've already given us the idea that it's informal, spoken.) – aparente001 Jan 11 '18 at 13:40
  • @ChaseRyanTaylor - Helpful. Why don't you add your brief description to "Quienes Somos" (spanish.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2587/9385)? – aparente001 Jan 11 '18 at 13:54
  • 1
    @aparente001 I am honored and would absolutely love to! School is about to start here in Texas, so it’ll have to wait. (I’ll delete this comment later so the comment section doesn’t fill up.) – gen-z ready to perish Jan 11 '18 at 14:00
9

In Spanish we can use two different constructions when we want someone to be more precise. They are pretty much equivalent, usage depends on the area. In Spain we normally use cómo de, while in most American countries they use qué tan.

So you would use:

  • ¿Pero cómo de lejos?

or:

  • ¿Pero qué tan lejos?

depending on the country.

A few more examples:

  • Este libro es muy caro.
  • ¿Pero cómo de caro? / ¿Pero qué tan caro?

  • La casa es muy grande.
  • ¿Pero cómo de grande? / ¿Pero qué tan grande?

  • El hombre era viejo.
  • ¿Pero cómo de viejo? / ¿Pero qué tan viejo?
  • 2
    Since OP lives in TX I think examples in this answer are the more likely he'll encounter from his MX neighbors, and I'd like to add a shorter form without using the adjective. "El libro es muy caro/ ¿qué tanto? ". Another form commonly used in LA is ¿cómo cuánto? and some people would simply say ¿cuánto? Notice that ¿qué tanto? applies to all examples (caro, grande, vieja, lejos, etc) – DGaleano Jan 11 '18 at 13:53
  • 2
    @DGaleano That’s very interesting. Actually, it’s funny you should point that out—I grew up in a region very densely populated with Mexicans, but I’ve since relocated to the Dallas metroplex, where we have a strong international pull. Mexicans, on the other hand, tend to stay closer to the border. It was a bit of a culture shock for me moving, because I encounter disproportionately few Mexicans ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I tried to address that in my edit/update. Nevertheless, you are absolutely right that ¿qué tanto? applies to me more, since it’s (apparently) used throughout the Americas. – gen-z ready to perish Jan 12 '18 at 4:47
6

NOTE: This answer is biased towards the European Spanish.

In Spanish you can say indeed ¿cuán lejos está?, but it sounds very outdated. So here you have a couple of possibilities:

  1. Just use the non-contracted form cuánto, but without the adjective, as it is implicit from the previous sentence:

    —Está lejos.
    —¿Pero cuánto?
    —Demasiado.

  2. Use the form cómo de:

    —Está lejos.
    —¿Cómo de lejos?
    —Demasiado.

About this last option, the DLE says:

cómo

  1. adv. interrog. Pregunta sobre la cantidad o el grado cuando modifica a adjetivos o adverbios precedidos de la preposición de. Me pregunto cómo de interesante resultaría la reunión. ¿Cómo quieres el bocadillo de grande?
3

Since you do not want a precise measurement question, and also you have already said that "cuan" is sketchy. Maybe the rhetoric "muy lejos" o "que tan lejos" might be useful.

  • Está lejos.
  • ¿Muy lejos?
  • Demasiado lejos.

or

  • Está lejos.
  • ¿Qué tan lejos?
  • Demasiado lejos.
2

—Está lejos.
—Pero ¿lejos, cuánto?
—Demasiado lejos.

As you know, cuánto is shortened to cuán when it is followed by an adjective or adverb, but nothing stops you from placing it after said adjective, especially in such short questions like this.

The general structure is:

—Algo es X.
—¿X, cuánto?
—{Mucho ~ Poco ~ Muy ~ Bastante ~ Demasiado ~ ...} X.

Or, alternatively:

—Algo es X.
—¿X, cuánto?
—[Specific quantity].

It is not a common structure (to the point that I couldn't find any examples in CORDE nor CREA, nor a quick Google Search), but I've used it, and heard it being used, several times.

Some other examples:

—Está lejos.
—¿Lejos, cuánto?
—Suficientemente lejos.

—Es caro.
—Pero ¿caro, cuánto?
—300 000 euros.

—Es un tipo fuerte.
—¿Fuerte, cuánto?
—Fuerte como para levantar un coche a pulso.

2

Pero, ¿cuán lejos?

No necesita mucha explicación: cuán es un diminutivo de cuánto y, si bien está algo en desuso en España, sí se usa mucho en el resto de los países hispanohablantes.

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