0

So I'm in class one day and I try to initiate a headcount of everyone in my class and so I decide to ask openly and say "How many are we?". But to my absolute shock I had some other person (along with a couple others more) telling me the question didn't make sense (grammatically) because I should've said "How many people are in the class/ take this class ?" I chose not to debate on the subject because I thought it was an American English thingy (like every thingy) but I still need to clear it up because I feel I was without error.

  • many is a determiner and pronouns do not normally take a determiner. It's unidiomatic to say *the he, *my he, *a we. – user178049 Sep 8 '17 at 1:40
  • Rewording a sentence doesn't make the original grammatically wrong. You should ask them what specifically is wrong with it. I may not be commonly used, but it's grammar is fine. – user3169 Sep 8 '17 at 2:05
  • 1
    How many are we? is grammatical. – AmE speaker Sep 8 '17 at 3:27
1

How many are we?

would not be a common way to say what you were trying to say, and sounds weird. I think you were trying to say something along the lines of

How many of us are there?

which is still shorter than your classmate's suggestions but sounds better.

I can't quite put my finger on why How many are we? sounds wrong, but it definitely does.

  • I think it's grammatically correct, but I agree that it sounds unusual. I think it sounds unusual for two reasons: (1) It sounds kind of formal or literary, which is out of place in a classroom context, and (2) it could sound like a partial sentence. The listener might expect to hear something like "how many are we [going to see]?", for instance, but the sentence just suddenly stops short. – Dangph Oct 17 '17 at 7:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.