4 students were still not on the bus, when our school was about to leave the school (when school let out). I know that one way of expressing this is:

4 students aren't here yet.

But after counting the number of students on the bus, can this be used:

4 students are less.

What about:

4 students are short.

4 students are missing.

I think the third one sound really weird....


You need to think what you are predicating it of.

If you are talking about short, it is the group that is short, not the students that are late (or even the group of late students), so you can say:

We are four students short (or "We are short of four students"),

but you can't say that the students are short with that meaning.

The same for less, except that there needs to be something to compare with, so

We are four students less than we were expecting. (Though we have would be more natural there); but you can't say that the students are less, with that meaning.

Missing is a different case. It is an adjective, meaning "not there, when expected". So

Four students are missing.

is exactly what you mean.

  • 1
    Short is sometimes a bit odd (I'm not even sure if syntactically it's all the same whether you're being given short shrift or short measure). But I certainly can't explain why If there is an ounce short they discover it sounds fine, whereas An ounce is short just sounds completely weird. Jan 29 '20 at 16:31

4 students are missing.

This one is grammatically fine.

4 students are short.

This is describing the students as short (opposite of tall), not describing the number of students as short. You could say "We are 4 students short [of the expected number]".

4 students are less.

Less than what? No, that can't be used. You could say "We have 4 students less than we expected".

  • So the likely ones are "We are four students short", "Four students are not here yet", "Four students are missing". What sounds the best out of these three? Jan 29 '20 at 17:10

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.