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The sentence

你多久吃一次鱼?
How often do you eat fish?

is on Tatoeba. The grammar seems different to English. The English "how often" is asking "with what frequency", whereas the Chinese seems to use 多久……一次 to convey the meaning "what's the time period between instances of":

You [你] how long [多久] eat [吃] one time [一次] fish [鱼]?

Question: Is 你多久吃一次鱼? a natural way to ask: How often do you eat fish?

I asked ChatGPT and it gave me all sorts of similar sentences, e.g.:

你多久修剪一次花园的植物?
你多久给家里的宠物喂一次食物?
他们多久打扫一次房间?

ChatGPT has no qualms with the question 你多久吃一次鱼?

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    Yes, this is the natural way to ask about frequency. Are you confused about specific aspects of this sentence? Nov 18, 2023 at 2:04
  • I'm mostly worried because the source is Tatoeba; almost all the the sentences there are translated, so I don't know how trustworthy this particular sentence is. When I saw this one I felt, if it's correct, I should put more effort into studying related sentences (since the grammar is different to English, it won't come naturally).
    – Becky 李蓓
    Nov 18, 2023 at 9:10

4 Answers 4

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Is 你多久吃一次鱼? a natural way to ask: How often do you eat fish?

Yes. It is a natural way to ask this kind of question.

If you translate "How often do you eat fish?" into Chinese like this: "多经常你吃鱼?", that is not correct. A question on "经常" is a yes-or-no question.

你经常吃鱼吗?(1-yes)是,我经常吃鱼。(2-no)我很少吃鱼,不经常吃鱼。

But please also note that you'd better avoid using "久" or "多久", since it may imply that it would be a long time. Using "多长时间" is a neutral way to ask a time duration question.

你多长时间吃一次鱼?

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ChatGPT has no qualms with the question 你多久吃一次鱼?

Neither do I.

I think the "confusion", (using the word advisedly), stems from differentiating "frequency" from "regularity"

What is frequent is not necessarily regular and vice versa.

Frequency is "how often"; like once a day, once a month, once in ten years?

Regularity is being characterized by a fixed principle or rate; every Friday, every first Monday of the month, whenever the Moon is full.

So, is 你多久吃一次鱼? asking about frequency or regularity?

It is a 多久……一次 structure.

That is, "how long", (多久),..."once", (一次)?, i.e. asking for the period of interval, or length of time, between the happening of one event to the next.

My view is, it is asking about the "frequency" in which fish is eaten; i.e. once a day, once a month, etc?

So, 你多久吃一次鱼 is a natural way to ask: How often do you eat fish.

How then do you ask, in Chinese, "Do you eat fish regularly?"

One way is 你有定期的时候吃鱼吗?

Answer:- 有,每个星期天, (I do, every Sunday); or if in the negative, then a simple 没有.

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次 is a quantifier that means the number of occurrences. "多久 + v + 一次" means "how long does the said action occur once = how frequently/often that action occurs". Note the change in meaning of the sentence with and without the quantifier:

  • 你多久吃一次鱼? - How often/frequently do you eat fish?

  • 你多久沒吃鱼了? - How long haven't you eaten fish?

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你多久吃一次鱼 seems awkward to me. Native Chinese usually don't phrase questions like that.

Instead, we use 你常常吃魚嗎? (Do you eat fish often?) That sounds more natural to me.

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