General Writing and Grammar Help/classification of

Advertisement


Question
QUESTION: Dear Ted,  

My question is about how to classify -  “how many” and “how much.”

Can you please tell me if these can be classified as “interrogative pronouns?”

This sort of confuses me because “how many” is made up of two words.  So, how can this be called an “interrogative pronoun”   -  which is singular?

Thank you for your help.  As always, it is very much appreciated.

Sincerely,

Rich

P.S.

Did I correctly place the period and the question mark inside the quotation mark in the above sentences?

how many
how many  
ANSWER: Dear Rich:


My question is about how to classify -  “how many” and “how much.”

Can you please tell me if these can be classified as “interrogative pronouns?”

This sort of confuses me because “how many” is made up of two words.  So, how
can this be called an “interrogative pronoun”   -  which is singular?

**** "How many" and "how much" are adjective phrases telling quantity [many] or quality [much].  They modify nouns [usually] or pronouns [rarely].

EXAMPLE:

How many people are coming?

In this sentence, which IS interrogatory, the subject is "people" and "are coming" is the present tense, progressive verb.  "How many," treated as one word, describes "people."

Interrogatory sentences create problems, because you usually have to rearrange the words to see the "picture."  However, in the case of these adjective phrases, no rearranging is required.  After you have assigned the function of all the other words [people + are coming], you are left with "how many."  The ONLY possible function for those words is to modify the word "people."  Thus, they are adjectives.

I am attaching a diagram that shows the structure.

Also, the same explanation applies to "how much," as in "How much sugar is needed?"

Ted

Did I correctly place the period and the question mark inside the quotation mark in the above sentences?

*** YES.  But you "copped out," when you used the hyphen in the last example:  So, how can this be called an “interrogative pronoun”   -  which is singular?

The sentence needs to be rewritten.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Ted,

Thank you for all of your help. Would you please tell me if the following sentence is more correct:

"So, how can this be classified as a singular interrogative pronoun?"

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

**** MY RESPONSE --

If there were a way to rate my QUESTIONERS, I would give you 10s.  You come up with questions that I almost never get from other people.  The "absolute adjective" example is one such question.  I don't think I have heard that term since high school.  I usually say "they are words that cannot be compared."    I was listening to some political commentary on TV last night.  One person said, "Our plan is MORE UNIQUE unique than theirs."  

When I was in graduate school [philosophy] at the U. of Pennsylvania, our Aristotle professor asked us which of the virtues was absolute.  This virtue could not be compared; it either "was" or it "was not."

I responded correctly.  [The only time I did in his class.]

I'll let you and Mrs. Rich think it over.  I'll be anxious to see your answer.

P. S.  "Bravery" is a virtue, but someone can be MORE brave than others.  And a person can be the MOST BRAVE of all.  So, "bravery" is NOT the virtue I mean.

Ted

*********************************

Thank you for all of your help. Would you please tell me if the following
sentence is more correct:

"So, how can this be classified as a singular interrogative pronoun?"

*** Yes, it is.  

*** Let me point out another minor error.  Certain adjectives are not capable of being
compared.  They are called "absolute adjectives." For instance, if something is "unique," it cannot be "uniquer" or "more uniquer."

In your case, the sentence is CORRECT.  You cannot have something that is MORE CORRECT.  It is either correct or it is not.

There is a lengthy discussion of this topic here:

http://www.englishforums.com/English/MoreMostCorrect/vpzzz/post.htm

Although some of the posters to the forum have poor English and go off on "philosophical tangents," the most important post is this one:

In English adjectives can be placed in two groups: those that lend themselves to comparison and those that don't. Take for example the adjective "even". A number is either even or it is not; a number cannot be more even than another number. The same is true of the adjective correct.

Ted

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

Experience

I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.