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A: My husband is in a coma.

B: Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't know. How long he been like that?

I know the natural thing to say would probably be "How long has he been in a coma?" But if "coma" shouldn't be repeated, what would be natural instead? Would my suggestion work?

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    Absolutely not, unless you're trying to write in a specific dialect. You need to say "How long has he been like that?" Jan 11 at 14:50
  • I suspect that the omission of has was an error, and Bobobobo was asking about been like that. I may be wrong, though.
    – Colin Fine
    Jan 11 at 15:23
  • I somehow forgot "has" twice. But "been like that" is fine in the context? Jan 11 at 15:33
  • Oh ok. Yes, it's fine in that context. Jan 11 at 15:37
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Oh. I'm sorry. I didn't know. How long he been like that?

As you suggest the word has has been omitted. This may be possible in some dialects and it is perfectly understandable.

How long has he been in a coma?

Would be the longer form but your version replacing in a coma with like that would be correct and arguably what most people would use in conversation.

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