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Researching how to say How long in Spanish, I came across these three versions

  1. ¿Cuánto tiempo...?

  2. ¿Cuánto tiempo dura...?

  3. ¿Cuánto dura...?

In the third case, I assume tiempo is understood. What I don't get is the function of the word dura (hard). Looking up the meaning of dura makes me every more confused.

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    dura comes from the verb durar (to have a duration, to last [a time], to take [a time]). Note that how long could also refer to physical length, and then it would be a different word entirely. I presume, of course, you mean to ask about asking how long something lasts or will take, correct? – user0721090601 Oct 16 '18 at 3:25
  • Yes, but it now you have peaked my interest in finding out the distinction between both :) – Simple Oct 16 '18 at 4:29
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Those are two equivalent versions. “Cuánto” means literally “how much”, so to ask “how long” we say “cuánto tiempo” (“how much time”), and when the context makes the noun redundant we drop it just like an English speaker would:

¿Cuánto [tiempo] dura?

¿Cuánto [dinero] cuesta?

¿Cuánto [peso] pesa?

¿Cuánt[o/a distancia] hay de ... a ...? (note the use of the masculine form as neutral)

I often hear “qué” used instead of “cuánto”, but it's not as literal and it may depend on where you are.

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    +1. But I would not recommend using qué instead of cuánto, though you can sometimes hear it. – Gorpik Oct 16 '18 at 6:53
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    @Gorpik, it's not as literal but I hear it a lot around me. I'll add a note. – arielCo Oct 16 '18 at 21:14
  • I've heard it, too. Your note is fine, since it is sometimes used; I just think it should not be recommended to a language learner. Again, good answer. – Gorpik Oct 17 '18 at 10:21
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How long in certain contexts can also be translated as desde cuándo, such as How long have you lived in Massachusetts?: ¿Desde cuándo vives en Massachusetts? (in addition to ¿Cuánto tiempo has vivido en Masachusetts?)

(I'm ignoring here the other meaning of how long, as in How long is your flagpole?)

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