I read a certain script of some film.

An old man : But so many have been killed. We've lost so many.

He said, "so many" instead of "so many people". Is this fine? Natural?

I know the word "many" alone can refer to "many people" as noun. But there is "so" added before the word, "many" : "so many"

I think "so many people" or "the many" makes sense. But how about "so many"?

  • We have lost so many (of them) .. Here it is clear that many refers to men that have been killed.
    – user5267
    Apr 19, 2014 at 18:27
  • Most dictionaries would define the word many as a "pronoun", too, among other things. It can be used to refer to many people, places, things, etc. Apr 19, 2014 at 18:42
  • "the many" without a noun would most likely be incorrect, I can't easily think of a scenario where it'd be used. "Many" alone or "so many" are correct if the subject can be inferred easily from context.
    – Doc
    Apr 20, 2014 at 5:17

3 Answers 3


It is true that "so many", by itself, can sound a little awkward:

I can't believe you bought so many!

It's crazy how many came tonight.

However, such usages are perfectly acceptable when context provides sufficient detail, and the clarifying information would merely be redundant:

Shampoo was on sale, so I bought 20 bottles.
Twenty? I can't believe you bought so many!

This is probably the busiest day we've had since we opened our restaurant.
Yeah, it's crazy how many came tonight.

In such conversations, clarifying words might follow "too many" if the dialog was rearranged, and "so many" was used before the context had been set:

I can't believe you bought so many bottles of shampoo!
Well, it was on sale, so I bought twenty.

It's crazy how many customers came tonight!
Yeah, this is probably the busiest day we've had since we opened our restaurant.

You've taken one line out of a script, and put it here all by itself. Still, we can guess what happened (it sounds like the old man is talking about a battle or a war). However, additional context could prove me wrong:

Old man's wife: It been a terribly cold winter; but at least we still have half our cattle.
Old man: But so many have been killed. We've lost so many.

Old man 1: This has been a terrible smallpox epidemic. I'm glad it seems to be over.
Old man 2: But so many have been killed. We've lost so many.

  • I had a similar thought to your last two examples, but then it occurred to me that killed would really have to be died for them to make the best sense. Killed tends to be active; the fox killed the cattle, or the enemy soldiers killed ours in the war (as we both suspect the original sentence does refer to). But regardless, the point stands; whatever context there is, that's what will determine what there are so many of. :) +1!
    – WendiKidd
    Apr 20, 2014 at 14:20
  • @WendiKidd - Excellent point; killed by the cold is valid English, as this Ngram shows. Peruse those results, however, and it doesn't take long to see that "killed from the cold" usually alludes flora or fauna – such as birds, insects, or citrus trees – not people.
    – J.R.
    Apr 20, 2014 at 15:33

It is fine. It is poetic. It uses elipsis. Never was so much owed by so many to so few. Churchill


When it's obvious what "many" refers to, you don't have to say the word with it, for example you can say "many" instead of "many people". With this kind of use "so" means "a large extent" and it can be used to modify adjectives, so you can use it to modify "many" and you don't need to use "people". In this sentence "so many" by itself is correct.

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