Is the sentence "She's been shopping for how long?" grammatically correct? I'm concerned that it sounds too awkward.

In context, it is obvious that I am asking how long Thora went to the shop for (it's not just an exclamation):

  • Where's Thora and how long has she been away?
  • Thora went shopping ages ago.
  • She's been shopping for how long?
  • i've lost track even of what i'm trying to ask now
    – user65113
    Apr 23, 2019 at 14:56
  • People use that form when speaking instead of saying: how long has she been etc. Yes, it's grammatical in spoken English.
    – Lambie
    Apr 23, 2019 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


It may be grammatically correct, but it's not idiomatic.

"She's been shopping for how long?" would only be used to request a clarification of the length of the shopping trip when the asker either didn't hear, or can't believe what he or she heard.


"My sister has been at the mall for sixteen hours."
"She's been shopping for how long!?"

"My sister has been shopping for mumble-mumble-mumble hours"
"Sorry, I didn't hear you. She's been shopping for how long?

Outside of these circumstances, the normal question would be phrased in the way questions are typically phrased, starting with a question word, and having an inverted verb and subject: "How long has she been shopping?"


It's fine, although I would move "how long" to the front of the sentence:

How long has she been shopping?

How long has he been away?

There's nothing wrong with putting it elsewhere, but because it delays the question it sometimes adds a nuance of drama or anticipation:

Police Officer: What is your occupation, Ms. Smythe?
Ms. Smythe: I'm a schoolteacher.
Police: And you've been a schoolteacher for how long?
Smythe: Fifteen years.
Police: And, as a schoolteacher, you teach what subject?
Smythe: English literature.

As Juhasz mentions, adding the question words at the end of the sentence is often (but not always) used to clarify some earlier question.

Police: How long were you watching television before you say you heard the shot?
Witness: About an hour.
Police: I'm sorry but how long? In an earlier statement you said you were watching television for fifteen minutes.

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