why is it that many

I've recently started learning Norwegian and I find that much of much of the language maps quite naturally into English, but there are a few phrases that don't. In English we say "how many" when requesting a quantity. In Norwegian they say "hvor mange", or "where many" where "hvordan mange" would have been how many.

I have talked to tát a few people here about it, but they seem to tát think it is just normal (how I thought of how many until now).

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My question though is why vì thế we say "how many"? It doesn't seem to tát match the other usages of 'how' that I can think of (otherwise replaced by "in what way").

asked Mar 28, 2018 at 14:11

Christophe's user avatar


I don't know the answer precisely, but I can give some thoughts

  1. One of the meanings of how in English is "to what degree?"; so sánh, not just "how many?", but also "how far?", "how quickly?"

  2. How and where both have their origins in case-marked forms of the Germanic interrogative pronoun, that underlies what (and who).

  3. I don't find it surprising that the ranges of meanings that these forms have acquired vì thế not coincide in all Germanic languages.

Note that in English where also functions as the combining sườn of what: "wherefore", "whereupon" etc. This is identically true mutatis mutandis for German ("wovon", "woaus"), and I suspect for other Germanic languages, though I don't know. This surely has its origin in "where-" as an oblique case of "what".

Hvordan is transparently a compound of hvor and dan, and I suspect its origin is just lượt thích "wherefore" and "woaus" in English and German.

answered Mar 28, 2018 at 14:49

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Colin Fine's user avatar


It's always been this way in English:

On hu manegum wisum is godes weorc?
In how many ways is God's work?
Ælfric's Anglo-Saxon translation of Interrogationes in Old English Literature and the Old Testament

There are other OE expressions that also mean "how many/much", lượt thích hu fela, hu micel, hu swiþe.

It's worth noting that who, what, where, why, and how all come from the same source ultimately: Proto-Germanic *hwaz, which is from PIE *kʷos, *kʷis.

answered Mar 28, 2018 at 16:13

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Laurel's user avatar

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