15

I'd like to describe a person that he is a honest person and add how honest he is but couldn't figure out. How can I say this?

He is honest on the scale of 9 out of 10.

Is this correct? Or is there any shorter form that native speakers say?

  • 2
    Could you switch to frequency (aka, he is honest 9 times out of 10)? – Matthieu M. Sep 29 '17 at 15:09
  • 6
    @MatthieuM.: Someone who is honest only 90% of the time is incredibly dishonest! Better would be to say "he is more honest than 9 out of 10 people", though that is still extremely awkward. – Eric Lippert Sep 29 '17 at 18:15
  • 3
    For humorous effect, you could write: "9/10 would trust again." – user18572 Sep 30 '17 at 15:37
  • Can it be He is honest, most of the time? – me_digvijay Oct 2 '17 at 12:25
  • 1
    Take a step back for a moment. What you're really saying is, "I don't have full confidence in this person. He's only a 9 out of 10." What prevents you from saying that he's completely honest? If you can't, then it doesn't really work as a compliment. It leaves the listener wondering, "What's that 10% that he lies about? How did he disappoint you, that you no longer have full confidence in him?" – jpaugh Oct 2 '17 at 14:54

10 Answers 10

47

I think a more likely construction would be:

I’d give him nine out of ten for honesty.

38

He is honest on the scale of 9 out of 10 is not fluent or idiomatic. If I had to express it with a scale, I would say something like

On a scale of one to ten, his honesty is a nine.

or

If you ranked honesty on a scale from one to ten, his would be a nine.

or

He's a nine on a one-to-ten scale of honesty.

But really, it sounds awkward and clumsy to rank someone's honesty on a numeric scale; I would rather say something like "He is almost completely honest" or "He is nearly always honest." That may be more of a stylistic issue than a linguistic one, though.

  • 1
    I think "one-to-ten scale" can be replaced with just "ten scale". As in "his honesty is a 9 on a ten scale" – Kevin Sep 28 '17 at 19:46
  • 34
    @Kevin that sounds odd to me, maybe it's a regionalism – Azor Ahai Sep 28 '17 at 19:55
  • 8
    "He's nearly always honest" - damning with faint praise, if ever I heard it. – Ergwun Sep 29 '17 at 5:10
  • 5
    "Nearly always honest" is going to be recieved as "dishonest" though. I'd rather say "I would trust him/her more than the average person" or something to that effect. – Stian Yttervik Sep 29 '17 at 7:56
  • 4
    Coming from Ireland "ten scale" sounds odd to me. I've always heard "a scale from one to ten" or maybe "... out of ten". Like "I'd give him a nine out of ten for honesty. – Keith Loughnane Sep 29 '17 at 8:29
15

If you want short and pithy, you may have the wrong subject.  If you want short, pithy and dynamic, you may also have the wrong verb. 

His honesty is 9 out of 10.

Without further context, we can't tell whether this places his honesty at a 90% occurrence rate or puts him in the 90th percentile of his peer group, but that's hardly relevant.  The one-to-ten rating scale is rarely used with precise measurements, and tends to represent nothing more than the strength of a gut-level reaction. 

By the way, the scale isn't 9 out of 10.  The scale is 1 to 10 (or sometimes 0 to 10), the rating is the 9 out of that range.  Since it is a rating, we can use the verb "to rate":

His honesty rates 9 out of 10.

If you're not comfortable with the verb "to rate", the less formal "to get" serves the same function:

His honesty gets 9 out of 10.

The stative "is" implies that you don't expect the rating to change.  Dynamic verbs like "rates" and "gets" imply that the rating could change over time.  Perhaps is honesty rates a 9 this year, but next year his rating might drop to 3.

 
As a final note, the title of your question also works.  I don't expect any native-speaking reader to be confused or mislead by

He's honest (9 out of 10).

where the parenthetical functions as an abbreviated afterthought or aside.  I immediately interpreted it as "He's honest. ([I give/rate his honesty a] 9 out of [a 1 to] 10 [scale].)"  Someone else might interpret it as "He is honest (9 [times] out of 10)", which is practically the same general sentiment, if somewhat less generous.

The simple parenthetical may be poor style in a formal context, but it looks fine from the perspective of an informal, conversational register.

  • 4
    I'd say "He's honest (9 out of 10)" is ambigous. Either you're rating his overall honesty as 9 on a 10 scale, which I would take to be a very honest person, or he's lying 1 out of every 10 times he says something, which I would NOT consider a very honest person – Kevin Sep 28 '17 at 18:04
  • Hmm. The only difference between your comment and my second-to-last paragraph, @Kevin, is your comparatively high estimation of the honesty of your fellow man. My fellow man, much to my annoyance, seems barely able to hold conversations without a sprinkling of hyperbole, sarcasm, and the occasional white lie. "How you doin'?" "Great, you?" "Gettin' by, and doubtful that you're doin' great." But, I'll take your comment as evidence that the OP title can be misleading. – Gary Botnovcan Sep 28 '17 at 18:36
  • I don't consider hyperbole or sarcasm to be dishonest. – Kevin Sep 28 '17 at 19:44
  • Thank you for your answer. Also I've read an article on Independent and it says "Jeremy Corbyn has said he is about "seven and seven and half out of ten" enthusiastic about staying in the European Union." So I reckon I can use something like "He is nine out of ten honest person". Not sure though – Melih Sep 28 '17 at 21:21
  • 1
    I'd love to see a full direct quote of Corbyn's words. This partly quoted, partly paraphrased sentence is far from seamless. However, I see no reason to object to "he is nine out of ten honest" beyond what's already been said about "he is honest (9 out of 10)", and the loss of parentheses is an improvement. – Gary Botnovcan Sep 28 '17 at 21:47
4

An option that maybe doesn't have quite the same meaning, but is certainly more natural-sounding, is:

He is honest 90% of the time

  • This is not equivalent. It's quite different imo. Though the out-of-10 scale is ambiguous, it generally implies, roughly speaking, either a scale relative to others (something like a percentile ranking) or else some pre-determined buckets that people have a reasonable consensus about ("X is a 10" vs "x is an 8", eg). – Jonah Sep 29 '17 at 3:44
  • 1
    @Jonah I agree it's not quite the same. It depends on the intent of the sentence, though. I can't see any reason to highlight the fact that a person's honesty is 9/10 (or to rate it out of 10 at all) other than to emphasise that they're honest, but not perfectly so. If that's the case, I think my suggestion is a good choice. The 90% isn't literal, of course, but has taken on a more approximate (almost idiomatic) meaning in casual use. – georgewatson Sep 29 '17 at 8:54
  • fair enough, i can see that – Jonah Sep 29 '17 at 17:37
4

Honesty is not about percentages. Honesty is about personal gain.

If he's honest most of the time, but lies about the critical things that, in the proper social context, he should not lie about, then the "90%" rating is meaningless.

Some things do not make sense to evaluate in terms of percentages.

i.e.: "Oh, I don't sleep with 99% of the women I meet, I only slept with that one."

I think honesty falls into this category.

There is no fluent way to describe what you're trying to describe, because honesty doesn't work that way. The concept itself is bizarre, so any description of it will be bizarre to begin with.

  • 1
    I think this is a good point but does not answer Melih's question. More of a philosophical answer than a language-wise one. But thanks for pointing this out @Neslon. – Maryam Sep 29 '17 at 2:42
  • 1
    This answer highlights why people are having trouble with the phrase. There are some adjectives that are binary and cannot be qualified (e.g. unique, pregnant - you are or you aren't). I suspect many people would consider honest to be one of these. Can you be a little bit honest? What would that mean? – Oscar Bravo Sep 29 '17 at 5:59
  • 2
    @OscarBravo I'd disagree that it HAS to be binary -- you can certainly meet someone who is more honest than someone else. That may describe the percentage of the time that the person is honest, but IMHO it captures a lot more. Even in a single instance, there are varying levels of honestness -- being "a little too honest" is a common expression. – A C Sep 30 '17 at 15:02
3

I'd like to also suggest the following:

He's a nine out of ten on the honesty scale.

This is idiomatic, and quite common in my experience.

Additionally, in my neck of the woods, we say something like this often enough:

On a scale from one to honest, he's a nine.

Since we so often rate things from 1 to 10, it's left implicit that the adjective ("honest") is the value of a score of 10. It's worth noting that this second construction is usually said with some sense of humour, since "a scale from one to honest" is, when taken literally, rather silly.

  • ooh, I'm familiar with the "on a scale of 1 to {something}" construction but never think to use it in conversation. I think it can work VERY well here, though as you said, OP should be aware that it really is quite informal and sets an almost tongue-in-cheek tone. The nice thing about it is that it makes it clear that you really haven't kept an exacting record of the person's historical honesty percentage, but are just casually saying that he's pretty honest... maybe just a little bit shy of 100%. – A C Sep 30 '17 at 15:09
3

Someone who is perfectly honest, even to the point that it might actually sometimes be a problem rather than a virtue, is "honest to a fault". So in this case, we might say, "honest, though not to a fault".

This nine out of ten concept seems dodgy. If a retailer rips off 1 in 10 customers, I would simply call them dishonest, not "9 out of 10 honest". A reputation for honesty is very sensitive to fairly slight blemishes.

2

Isn't there a more simple way? Suggestions:

He is quite honest

He is rather honest

He is fairly honest

He is really honest

He is very honest

Variant:

He is a [quite|rather|fairly|very|really] honest person

  • It was my impression that OP specifically wanted to refer to a scale from 1 to 10. – G Tony Jacobs Oct 2 '17 at 12:35
1

Rating on scales from 1 to 10 is so common that it has become idiomatic to say things like:

On a scale of 1 to perfectly honest, he’s a 9

where the 10 at the top of the scale is implied.

Examples of this construction:

On a scale of 1 to America, how free are you tonight?

On a scale of 1 to even, I can’t

On a scale of one to Britney Spears, how stressed are you?

-1

He's more honest than 90% of people.

is the natural way to put it. The meaning is clear and it's a compliment.

  • This means that nine in ten people are compulsive liars. Nor does it exclude the possibility that people always lie, i.e. he is not as bad as 90% of the population. This changes the OP's original meaning completely and is hardly a compliment. – Mari-Lou A Oct 1 '17 at 15:24
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA: I'm not sure how this implies 90% of people are "compulsive liars" but okay – Mehrdad Oct 1 '17 at 22:23

protected by Community Oct 1 '17 at 1:17

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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