What would be the most natural way of saying that there are two things you would choose rather than one.

For example, when someone asks you a question like

What is the car of your dreams?


What is your favorite color?

What would sound more natural as a reply?

I have two.
I have two of them. 
There are two. 
There are two of them. 

[e.g. one is Porsche and the other is Mercedes and one is green and the other is blue]

  • 1
    Probably I have rather than There are - if only because it's your personal opinion. But they're all valid, and it doesn't mean much to "vote" on the best way of putting it. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 8 '13 at 5:06

To me, "of them" comes across as slightly wrong, because it's partitive. Consider:

  • "There were six apples on the table; Susie ate two of them."
  • "Susie eats apples often. This morning, she ate two."

A quantity of something implies part of a whole: Susie ate a part of the whole set of six apples. But in the second sentence, which isn't partitive, one would not ordinarily say "she ate two of them".

Another example:

  • "My two sisters go to church every Sunday."
  • "Two of my sisters go to church every Sunday."

The of construction in the second sentence clearly suggests that I have more sisters than two, whereas its absence in the first clearly indicates that I have only two sisters.

Similarly with your favorite colors, or the cars of your dreams: you have a fixed quantity, and you're speaking of the entire set. So you might say "Two of my dream cars are a BMW and a Mercedes" if you mean that you also dream about a Porsche and a Jaguar. However, if the first two are the only ones you dream about, you'd simply say "I have two dream cars, a BMW and a Mercedes." Therefore, when answering the hypothetical question, the elliptical form to use would be simply "I have two," not "I have two of them."

As for "there are two": it's better than either of the "of them" alternatives, and there isn't all that much to choose between it and "I have two."

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I wouldn't find "I have two of them" an unnatural-sounding reply. If the O.P. had asked, "What's the best way to write an answer?" I'd agree with your guidance. As for, "What's the best way to reply [verbally]?" we don't always follow such formalities when speaking. – J.R. Aug 8 '13 at 7:52
  • Well, the only response I have is: "I would." But then, I've been told I'm insufferably pedantic. – verbose Aug 8 '13 at 7:55
  • Whenever I'm asked if I have a favorite color, I think two things: (1) it depends on the season, and (2) it depends on what I'm buying (my favorite color car isn't necessarily my favorite color underwear). Needless to say, I hate that security question. But now I'm digressing. :^) – J.R. Aug 8 '13 at 7:58

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