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I want to know when I should use How many of... over How many... I have seen both of them, but don't know how the grammar works behind

e.g.:

How many of them do you know?

How many languages do you speak?

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Them is a personal pronoun that you use when you refer back to people/creatures/items that you have already mentioned.

So, in this context your first question would be:

How many languages do you speak?

And if you followed up, wanting to know more about these languages, you might ask:

How many of them did you learn at school?

Of them is another way of saying of these languages.

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  • 'How many' in "How many languages...." is adjectival, whereas, "How many of the languages" has 'How many' like a Pronoun. – Ram Pillai May 19 at 3:58
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The real grammatical and syntactical differentiation between your examples is that "many of" is used along with pronouns(such as them), and determiners( such as the/his/their, etc. ). Besides, there is not too much difference in meaning between them;hence, it really depends upon the context.

Conclusion - Reference:

1) many of + pronoun / determiner + plural countable noun;

2) many of + [personal] pronoun;

3) many + plural countable noun;

4) many + a + singular countable noun ( a similar meaning to 3), yet more formal );

5) the + many + plural countable noun ( a more definite meaning );

Nevertheless, "Many" can be used in the comparative structures as well as a pronoun ( recommended for more formal occasions ).

e.g.

I did not have as many opportunities as you did.

Many knew she was going to vomit at the party. ( = 'Many of the people present knew ..... ')

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