We had an argument in our collage if it's possible to have such structure:

"How many -singular noun- is there?"

For example:

How many chair is there?

The claim of the supporters: This structure should be used in case that t is not known whether there is one one or more chairs there. While just in case that it is known certainty that there are more than one chair, it should be "how many chairs are there".

The claim of the opponents: This structure cannot be since using the phrase "how many" always should be with a plural noun.

Both sides are not native English speakers, then I would like to know what is the truth.

  • 2
    You cannot have how many {singular noun} Feb 23 '17 at 17:25
  • 2
    No, the form How many [singular noun] is there? is never valid. The nearest context I can think of where it might be possible to do something like this is (if) there is/are more than one, as explored on that ELU question. Feb 23 '17 at 17:30

How many chair is there?

This is not grammatically correct in English. "How many" refers to an unknown number, "many" refers to more than one.; "How many?" requires a plural verb.
The correct question is:

How many chairs are there?


What is the number of chairs

Asks the same question without the need for "many" and the need for a plural verb. "Number" is singular, grammatically.

The answer to "what number" can be from zero to infinity. (0 to ∞), or any negative number.

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