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If I want to ask about the number of a seating capacity, or the volume of a battery, should I begin with "what" or "how many/much" ? For example:

  1. What is the capable of the theater?
  2. How many is the seating capacity of the theater?
  3. How much is the capacity of your phone battery?

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  • How many can be seated in the theater? – Hot Licks May 17 '17 at 11:35
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Capacity is the maximum amount that something can contain. (Source) So you don't need how many/ much in any of the sentences.

The 3 sentences should be structured as below:

What is the capacity of the theater?

What is the seating capacity of the theater?

What is the capacity of your phone battery?

1
  1. What is the capable of the theater?
  2. How many is the seating capacity of the theater?
  3. How much is the capacity of your phone battery?

All of these need corrections, none of them are correct in their current form.

  1. What is the capacity of the theater?

Capable is an adjective and does not fit in this construction.

  1. How many people can be seated in the theater?

If you want to use "many", you have to be talking about a plural (Capacity is singular). "500 people" is a multitude of people ("many people"), but it expresses the capacity (singular) of the theater. Capacity does not pluralize.

This is similar to asking someone's age. You don't ask how many ages they have; you ask what their age (singular) is.
But you could also ask how many years they've been alive. Years is plural, but age is not. that is why you can only use "many" when talking about years.

  1. What is the capacity of your phone battery?

This is grammatically correct. However, there is a better option available:

3b. How much capacity does your phone battery have?

The reason this is different is because capacity means something different when we are talking about electricity (it literally means "the electrical charge that is stored").

This can also change the meaning!
Capacity, in the context of a battery, can either mean the charge that is currently stored in the battery, or it can mean the maximum charge that this battery can hold.

I would interpret 3. as asking about the maximum charge, and 3b. as asking about the current status of the battery.
However, I do think that that's a matter of inference, and that you can grammatically use either sentence for either meaning; and that the intended meaning should be clarified from the context in which you use it.


Response to the question in comments

I see two possible ways of asking this. They are slightly different.

What is the capacity of the container?

It needs to already be clear (from context) that you are talking about sets. Also, when you ask about the capacity, you are asking about the maximum possible¨ amount of sets that can be put into the container. That is not the same as how many sets will be loaded in the container. E.g. you could fit 10 sets in there if you wanted to, but the company only loads 8 as a safety measure.

How many sets will you load per container?

This question focuses on how many sets will be loaded into the container, rather than the maximum amount that you could possibly fit.

  • so can I say "How many sets per container will be loaded?" – sinbadsuuny May 18 '17 at 6:17
  • I mean how many sets will be loaded into a container. – sinbadsuuny May 18 '17 at 6:22
  • @sinbadsuuny: I will update my answer for this question. – Flater May 18 '17 at 8:27
  • what about if I say How many sets will be loaded into per container, or How many sets per container will be loaded into – sinbadsuuny May 18 '17 at 8:40
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    @sinbadsuuny: All the options you're providing are viable alternatives (although the grammar/spelling needs a bit of work). I would suggest you ask a new question for those alternatives, as they weren't part of the question you asked here. – Flater May 18 '17 at 8:47

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