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Сколько уже можно болтаться там сзади?

I assume this is more or less an equivalent of the English phrasing:

How much longer {towards a point in time in the future} are you going to do ...?

... said in a rather accusing tone. But what is the more literal interpretation of the phrase? Is it more like:

=??? How long {already / until now} could you be lagging behind?

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  • I think its meaning is very close to English "Enough already!", although less direct and with some passive-aggressive tint. "You've been lagging behind for so long already, for how much longer is it possible for you to keep doing that?"
    – Headcrab
    Jul 2 '18 at 7:15
  • Or "Are you done [doing X]?"
    – Alexander
    Jul 2 '18 at 17:14
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Literally — Сколько (for how long) [уже] можно (is it acceptable) болтаться сзади (to lag behind)?

(with the implication that the amount of time for which it is permissible to lag behind has long elapsed)

This construct is a question that could be literal or rhetoric, only the latter sounds accusing. A child could ask a parent, “Сколько [мне] [уже] можно играть?” — “For how long may I play?” (“уже” would merely suggest that something has changed and the speaker expects a different allowance). However, if the parent were to say exactly the same (without “мне” obviously, or with “тебе”), that would be accusing the child of playing too much (and “уже” would play an emphasizing role).

Like plain “можно”, it uses the dative case for the subject (something permits (whom?)): “Мне можно [есть] шоколад, но нельзя мёд” — “I can eat chocolate, but not honey” (presumably due to allergy).

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  • Is it unusual to include the dative subject in this phrasing: "Сколько уже можно тебе + infinitive"? And is an accusing tone always associated with this phrasing? Jul 1 '18 at 14:48
  • @Alone-zee see edit. Jul 1 '18 at 15:45
  • 1
    @Alone-zee It is an expression of impatience or annoyance by something still going on. It could be simply about watching races, etc. For how much longer is it possible (for them/you) to try my patience by lagging behind?
    – Alex_ander
    Jul 2 '18 at 4:48

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