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Hi,

A friend of mine, who isn't a native speaker, often confuses me with his unusual syntax. For instance, where I would say: "there are many of us", "how many of you are there?" and "I'm from a family of three", he says: "we are many", "how many are you?" and "we're three in my family". I don't know what to make of this. His sentences seem perfectly grammatical, yet, they sound very strange to my ears. I can't explain why... After all, some of his sentence structures work if I substitute "numerous" for "many" (i.e. "we are numerous".) Can someone help me sort this out?
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Side-note: Granted, there is nothing wrong with the sentence "how many are you" per se, but the way he used it was weird. If only I could remember the exact context in which he said it...
Hi,
His sentences seem perfectly grammatical, yet, they sound very strange to my ears.

You're right. They are simply not idiomatic in terms of ordinary everyday English. That's alI.

Best wishes, Clive
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Hi Marvin,

It sounds to me as if you've already successfully sorted it out. As a weird person who enjoys using the strange forms you mention, I can only offer my condolence.

Perhaps your friend is a time traveller, like me. What is his native tongue? (Venutian?) Just kidding!

Best wishes, - A.
Thanks, Clive. You took the words right out of mouth. One thing still puzzles me, though: if "we are many" is unidiomatic, then why is it acceptable to use constructions like "we are numerous" and "we are more numerous than them"? Aren't "many" and "numerous" supposed to be synonyms?

P.S.: To answer Avangi's question, my friend actually has two native tongues. His mother is Lebanese and his father is a Frenchman. Whether these are common mistakes among Arabic and French-speakers, I couldn't say. My French is rusty at best and my knowledge of Arabic is nil.
I'd say, "We outnumber them." I don't find "We are numerous" that common in "unprepared" speech.

BTW, I agree completely with Clive's assessment of "we are many" as unidiomatic.
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I agree. I would also probably say "we outnumber them" rather than "we are more numerous than them". Nevertheless, you have to admit that this usage is not uncommon in statements like "in most ecosystems, herbivores are more numerous than predators." By that logic, I don't see why you couldn't say "we are more numerous." Both "we" and "herbivores" are used as subjects here. As far as I can tell, the only difference is one is a pronoun and the other is a noun.
Yes, I do see your point. But the thing is, we're talking about strangeness, which is a matter of not being idiomatic, which has nothing to do with logic - as you clearly indicated in your OP.

There are many (numerous) examples of usages which work with nouns and not with pronouns. I remember the issue coming up recently in a couple of threads (don't make me find them.)

But it's not exactly parallel. "Cockroaches are more numerous/plentiful/common/prevalent than mice," but not "more many than mice."

You have to admit that "We're three" is way more elegant than "There are three of us." (Don't you?)
Strangely, I don't think I would ever say "we're three" unless it were followed by one or several words (ex: "we're three people from different backgrounds.") Now that you mention it, I'm not sure why exactly...
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