There are two sentences:

  1. He has two sons who become a doctor.

  2. He has two sons, who become a doctor.

I am in Korea. In Korea, in the first sentence "He" (i.e. the person from the first sentence) could have either sons or daughters, But in the second sentence "He" (i.e. person from the second sentence) must have two sons.

Is this also the case in English? Or are there any other differences?


I would say neither of these sentences is correct English grammar. The first one might be correct if the two sons somehow became a single doctor. The second one is just incoherent. Also, you need "became", since this is in the past.

I think you're trying to draw a distinction between:

  1. He has two sons who both became doctors.

  2. He has two sons; both became doctors.

In this case, the first one leaves open the possibility that he has more sons. The second does not, since it makes "He has two sons" it's own thought. Strictly speaking, you could say "He has two sons" to mean he has at least two sons, but nobody does that.

(Like the old puzzle, "A man has two ordinary American coins that total 35 cents. One of them is not a quarter. What are they?" The gag answer: "The one that's not a quarter is a dime, the other one is a quarter.")

  • I would argue the first sentence leaves little room for him having more sons because "both" implies "all of them, to which the count is two". If you wanted to leave open the possibility that he has additional sons, you could say "He has two sons that became doctors (/ and a son that became a policeman)". – Matt Sep 10 '13 at 6:04
  • +1 You draw lots of very interesting distinctions. Do you that most people would be more likely to say He has two sons who are doctors.? – dcaswell Sep 10 '13 at 6:05
  • @Matt: I think if you didn't say anything else, it would imply he had no more sons. But you could also say: "He has one son who dropped out of college. He has two sons who both became doctors." If you just wanted to talk about the doctors, it would be much more natural to say, "Two of his sons became doctors." – David Schwartz Sep 10 '13 at 6:08
  • @user814064 I think that would be the most natural way to phrase it in spoken English if you wanted to put it in the present. Otherwise, using "became" instead of "are" is natural as well. – David Schwartz Sep 10 '13 at 6:09
  • There is also the somewhat common practice of recounting history in present tense: In 1956 he marries Jane Stewart. They have two sons who become doctors. So really the only thing ungrammatical about the sentence is "a doctor" that needs to become just "doctors". – Jim Sep 10 '13 at 6:42

I think you mean the following:

  1. He has two sons who are doctors.
  2. He has two sons, who are doctors.

The former sentence indicates that the man has many sons (and possibly daughters), but two of the sons are doctors.

The latter sentence indicates that the man has two and only two sons, both of whom are doctors.

I hope this clarifies things!

(By the way, I'm also Korean so I guess if it's more comfortable with you, you can ask in Korean as well).

  • 2
    No you cannot ask, or answer, in your native language. This is an English language site. And all questions and answers are written in English so that speakers of all languages can benefit from them! – Alan Carmack Sep 14 '16 at 12:30
  • Welcome to ELL Eugene. As Alan has already pointed out, questions and answers must be primarily written in English, although it is OK to include a phrase from another language to clarify the question or answer. – ColleenV Sep 14 '16 at 13:17

Maybe you wanted to say “He has two children which became doctors”?

Or “He has two offspring who became doctors”.

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