How many of you {know/knows} English?

Without knowing the outcome of the above question are we supposed to use a singular verb or a plural verb?

This question is different from the one already asked as this question is used with a main verb 'know' where as the previous one with 'be' verbs.

  • see the answer to this related question Jun 12 '18 at 4:35
  • The fact, that "many" is written in the question, shows that you should use the plural verb.
    – Geshode
    Jun 12 '18 at 5:23
  • 2
    No, the plural verb is "know". "knows" is used for the third person (he/she/it)
    – RubioRic
    Jun 12 '18 at 7:23
  • 1
    I am going to reopen this question because I think that it is not clear whether "you" is a singular or plural noun in this context, while in the example in the proposed duplicate "How many chair" is clearly referring to a singular noun. I think an answer that explains this example in more depth would be helpful, even though the answer on the duplicate is relevant.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 12 '18 at 15:55
  • 1
    @RubioRic That should say third person singular to be accurate.
    – user230
    Jun 12 '18 at 17:05

How many of you know English?

That is the correct usage of know. However to make it sound more natural I would suggest saying

How many of you speak English?

  • I know/play/try/do/wash
  • you know/play/try/do/wash
  • we know/play/try/do/wash
  • they know/play/try/do/wash

  • he knows/plays/tries/does/washes
  • she knows/plays/tries/does/washes
  • it knows/plays/tries/does/washes
  • the boy knows/plays/tries/does/washes
  • the girl knows/plays/tries/does/washes
  • Peter knows/plays/tries/does/washes
  • 1
    Why is "know" correct in this case? Why is "speak" better than "know"? I can read a little German, but I wouldn't say I can speak German.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 12 '18 at 16:19
  • 1
    @ColleenV Right but it would sound more natural to say I can speak a little German.
    – MattCom
    Jun 12 '18 at 16:31
  • But I don't speak German, and I probably wouldn't understand if a native speaker tried to talk to me in German. There are plenty of folks in the world that know some English and can understand a little if they hear it or read it but don't actually speak the language. We would say they "know a little English", but we wouldn't say "they speak a little English".
    – ColleenV
    Jun 12 '18 at 18:33

In this case, it seems to me that your confusion is around whether "you" is singular or plural in the question. When you say "without knowing the outcome", I assume you're thinking that there might be a difference in the verb you use if there is only one person that "knows English" or many people that "know English".

The short answer is that the result of the question doesn't matter, we always use plural nouns with "many".

Many is used to describe count nouns or nouns that can be counted like books, ideas, leaves, and shoes. When using many, the noun will always be plural.
-- Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary

So in your question, the plural verb is required, and it would be:

How many of you know English?

If you wanted to use the third person singular verb, you might say:

Who here knows English?

Whether you may want to use "speaks English" instead of "knows English" would depend on the context. If you were traveling and wanted to find someone that you could talk to in English, you would prefer "speaks". For example "Does anyone here speak English?"

If you were asking a group of students to try to determine what level of English you would like to start teaching at, you might say "How many of you know some English already?" Those students may not be able to talk with you in English, but they might understand if you speak in English or be able to read English texts.

  • #colleen V thank you for making this answer crystal clear to me with the sentence cited above- Who here knows English?
    – Kannan
    Jun 13 '18 at 7:03

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .