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Featured A lot of bombs were dropped

Discussion in '英語勉強フォーラム - Learning English' started by hirashin, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. hirashin

    hirashin 先輩

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    Hello, native English speakers,
    Which would be used?
    (a) A lot of bombs were dropped over Japan during the second World War.
    (b) Many bombs were dropped over Japan during the second World War.
    (c) A number of bombs were dropped over Japan during the second World War.
    (d) A great number of bombs were dropped over Japan during the second World War.

    Thanks in advance.
    Hirashin
     
  2. JuliMaruchan

    JuliMaruchan 後輩

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    All of the above. "A number", I should mention, doesn't necessarily mean "a lot", it can also just mean "more than one". It's used a lot to hide the fact that a figure is actually really small, or when someone doesn't actually have a clue what the figure is.
     
  3. hirashin

    hirashin 先輩

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    Thank you, Julimaruchan.
     
  4. nahadef

    nahadef Racial orthogologiser

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    All of the above, but please remember that many is not usually used in the affirmative. Many and much occur a lot more in the negative than in the positive (あまり). "A lot of" is more natural.
     
  5. JuliMaruchan

    JuliMaruchan 後輩

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    I can't say I agree with that. I hear and use "many" in the positive sense all the time. Heck, isn't "a lot" colloquial? I've always interpreted it that way, and I'd never expect to see it in a textbook, for instance. Even "much" is used positively a lot in certain contexts (though for that word I can at least see why you object to it).
     
  6. OoTmaster

    OoTmaster 先輩

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    Maybe it's a regional thing. I would prefer "a lot" over "many" when used in a positive context. But would use "a lot" or "many" about the same number of times in a negative context. "I have a lot of friends I rely on.", "I don't have many problems.", "I don't have a lot of problems."
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. JuliMaruchan

    JuliMaruchan 後輩

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    Just a few examples of positive cases that work:

    "too many" and "too much"
    "much more", "much stronger", etc
    "very much", "so much"
    "You will need many tools and clear wits to survive it." (King's Quest VI)
    "Ah, but advice is free, Alexander. Making use of it costs much more." (King's Quest VI)
    "The Dark Side is a pathway to many abilities, some considered to be unnatural." (Revenge of the Sith)
    "So fate has arrived. Many years have gone since that day." (Samurai Jack)

    And some more examples I can make up on the spot:

    "Much of the controversy pertains more to religious belief than science."
    "We are generating too much power to store in our batteries."
    "Many of you may doubt what I am saying."
    "We have many assets which aid us in marketing."
    "Many people prefer not to talk about politics."
    "Our company controls much of the market."
    "We have so much peanut butter that we don't know what to do with it."
    "Too many people are content to just vote on the Presidential ballot and ignore the mid-terms."
    "There is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."
    "I like this game very much."

    Actually, what I struggle with is to find any particular situation where even "much" sounds weird. The pattern I notice is that it's cases where "much" is used basically alone. Even then, it's only a little weird and it's not universal anyway. Nothing serious at all.
     
  8. Majestic

    Majestic 先輩

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    This sentence, while grammatically correct, needs a special correction, I think. "A number of" is an intentionally vague qualifier: similar to "a few" or "several". It indicates a plurality: more than one of the thing. The upper limit is not specified, but it implies that the number is not unusually high, that it might be easily countable, or easily ascertainable by observation. So the syntax of the sentence is correct, but the logic of the sentence is incorrect because it implies "a few". Similarly, you would not say "there are a number of grains of sand on the beach", or "there are a number of people living in Tokyo", even though each is grammatically correct.
    In the case of the target sentence, the number of bombs dropped on Japan was high, and the destruction was enormous, so to say there were "a number of bombs dropped over Japan" would be a gross understatement, an intentional under-representation of the quantity of bombs, and therefore it requires correction.
    Also, I would suggest "on" might be a better preposition than "over" in all of the target sentences.
     
  9. hirashin

    hirashin 先輩

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    Thank you for your help, nahadef, OoTmaster, and Majestic.

    I've learned that usually you don't use "many" or "much" in affirmative sentences.
    You don't say
    (a) I have many friends in Japan. or
    (b) We have much rain in June.
    Am I right?

    But you can say
    (c) Many people have expressed this opinion.
    (d) There are too many cars on the road.
    Right?

    According to my dictionary, you can use "many " to modify the subject of a sentence even if it is in the affirmative. And "so many", "too many","as many","how many", "many more" can be used in an affirmative sentence.

    I didn't know what "a number of" exactly means.
     
  10. JuliMaruchan

    JuliMaruchan 後輩

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    I would disagree with A, but agree with B in a noncommittal fashion.

    It's not a rule I observe. I wouldn't be surprised if this is just another old rule that has fallen out of favor. Note that in the real-world examples I gave for "many", 2/3 of them are modifying the object.

    Literally, it means nothing. In common parlance, it just means "more than one", and it is typically used to be intentionally vague, either because you're trying to manipulate someone (e.g. in advertising) or because you're trying to avoid admitting your own ignorance.

    It could even be taken further than its usual use. For example, you could say, "There are a number of papers which prove that Creationism is true." If someone then investigated and found that number to be zero, the person who made the claim could not be accused of lying, because zero is still a number.

    I'm sure you understand the literal meaning, right? Well, the common meaning is pretty much identical, and it's just as pointless. All sorts of weasel words such as these are a thing in English, partly because advertisers keep making them up. If you have time to waste:

    Weasel Words - TV Tropes

    The effectiveness of expressions like these comes from the fact that speakers do not know the difference, while the difference is apparent when the statement is carefully evaluated. So if you were to ask someone what "Clinically tested" means on the cover of a package of weight loss supplements, they will probably tell you that it means that it has been proven to be safe and effective, while what it actually means is exactly what it says: that it was tested for something clinical at some point. Similarly, if you were to ask most native English speakers what "a number of bombs" means, they would probably say "a lot of bombs", whereas what it actually means is exactly what it says: some number of bombs, loosely implied to be greater than one. I have dropped a number of bombs on Middle Earth, but that number is zero.
     
  11. Majestic

    Majestic 先輩

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    I disagree that "a number of" means nothing. It serves a valid purpose in English, and we shouldn't lead Hirashin to believe that its use is limited to deception or subterfuge. I also disagree that in a legal sense "a number of" could mean zero, since zero is a number. I think this would be intentionally misleading, and one could find oneself in contempt of court if one used this tactic. I think its best just to know that "a number of" means something similar to "a few", or "some" and leave it at that. In this regard, to say that there were "a few" bombs dropped on Japan, would be grammatically correct, but factually incorrect. Even though "a few" is subjective, it is clearly inappropriate to use it for the many thousands (hundred thousands?, millions?) of bombs dropped on Japan.
     
  12. JuliMaruchan

    JuliMaruchan 後輩

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    When I said it literally means nothing, I meant that literally. As in, it's an implication that tells you the number is more than 1, not the language itself. I only brought this up to emphasize that it isn't a meaning you can understand logically, it's just something you have to know.

    Regarding legal matters, I am not a lawyer and don't give legal advice. What I was referring to is casual accusations of lying, and saving face from that.

    As for the usefulness of the expression, I think this is largely subjective and we just have to agree to disagree on that.
     

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