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I guess this conversation might be unusual. But does the wife's question make sense to you? Let's suppose they don't have a timer.

Wife: How long have the eggs been boiling?

Husband: Six minutes.

Wife: They'll be done in four minutes. Please watch the time.

I feel the question isn't very right, because we usually say eggs are being boiled. In other words, I should use the passive voice.

But the passive sentence looks odd to me:

How long have the eggs been being boiled?

There's another option, the present perfect simple.

How long have the eggs been boiled?

However, it seems to ask how long it has been since the eggs were boiled well enough to be served?

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    "How long have the eggs been boiling?" - this is a very very normal question. Jan 2 at 13:32
  • Thank you. Does this work: How long have the eggs been boiled?
    – Stephen
    Jan 2 at 13:37
  • The eggs are 'being boiled' in the sense that someone has put them in a saucepan to cook, but it sounds very clumsy to use the verb to be twice like that. It's idiomatic to ask "How long have the eggs been boiling?" meaning "How long has the water with the eggs in it been boiling?" Jan 2 at 14:05

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How long have the eggs been boiling?

Is the normal way a native English speaker would ask the question if the eggs are still being boiled and may need further cooking.

How long have the eggs been being boiled?

Does not make sense.

How long have the eggs been boiled?

Implies that the eggs are no longer being boiled.

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  • Thank you very much. In my country, we submerge eggs in the cold water before turning on the burner. If I ask How long have the eggs been boiling, does it mean how long it has been since you turned on the burner or since the water began to boil?
    – Stephen
    Jan 3 at 4:23
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    @Stephen I think that method is pretty universal, dropping them into already boiling water can cause them to crack and leak. However that's really a topic for a cooking forum! When it comes to timing I always measure the time from when the water comes to the boil as burners vary widely in how long it takes to get from cold to boiling. It depends on lots of factors, the type of burner, the size of the pan and how well it fits the burner, how much water you started with and how many eggs you are cooking at the same time to name but a few. Jan 3 at 10:55
  • Thank you very much.
    – Stephen
    Jan 3 at 12:35

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