"Ils pourraient être trois ou quatre."

Translation:There might be three or four of them.

December 23, 2013



Can this sentence be written like "" They might be three or four "" ?

December 23, 2013


I have no idea what the English solution means!

January 27, 2014


I think it's a (very unnatural-sounding, but not technically incorrect) way of saying "There could be three or four of them".

February 4, 2014


Agreed. As an English teacher in France, I end up correcting this kind of mistake again and again. The correct response is "There could be three or four of them".

June 27, 2014


I understand more this translation with "of them". Thank you. Without "of them" I'm not able to understand why "there" instead of "they". An explanation ?

September 8, 2019


I wrote "there could be three or four," as my answer, and it was wrong. "There could be three or four," people, objects, places, etc. sounds better to me. I'm going to report it and see what happens.

February 17, 2014


Agreed. The actual answer listed is definitely wrong.

March 25, 2014


It's not so much wrong as it is archaic.

Meanwhile, I lost a heart here, and the suggested correction was "They could be a number three or four." Bleh! I can't defend that one.

August 29, 2014


Spot on.

September 22, 2014


That's what I tried, and it was marked wrong. I took the sentence to refer to the age of "them".

March 23, 2017


Ok, I see this has been debated and discussed ad nauseam. I'm guessing the original "correct answer" was "They could be three or four".

Which, as it happens, is the answer I gave just now and was marked wrong. I do agree that "There could be three or four (of them)" is a more colloquial translation, but I don't think "They could be three or four" is actually wrong.

Ah well.

September 10, 2015


"There could be three or four of them" is it also possible to translate this from english to french really specifically? In other words can "ils y pourraient être trois ou quatre d'eux" = "there could be three or four of them"? Or is this phrase just another one of those things where you can't really translate them into english word by word?

May 3, 2016


"there could be about 3 or 4 of them", which to me is the idiomatic english translation, was not accepted. perhaps there's a better one, but the correct solution offered was not it.

October 9, 2014


This debate went on at great length in the ...how many are they?....example.

Students just have to accept that many people including Duo believe it is good English to use either they or there in these constructions if the speaker/writer wishes to do so. Since the French in this example is specifically they, Duo will expect to see that as the translation.

Those students who believe that English requires only there in such phrases may well be in the majority but in some environments, they will be required instead because that is what the French says. Other environments will not require such strict adherence and allow the student to substitute there for they.

There is no point in students choosing to insist that no one in their circle would ever use they in such circumstances. Duo, like some people, does .

When on Duo, if you see ils/elles, translate it as they. (if you want to keep your heart)

October 16, 2014


Yes, but if you want Duo to be an accurate translation tool (which it is, mind!), and for people to learn the language correctly, then you have to make sure people know what the correct translation is, and for that you have to push for the developers to correct any unnatural translations! You'd be amazed by how many people learn the wrong translation from this site simply by not having an official explanation of certain points and by relying on comments which sometimes even teach them the wrong translation.

October 16, 2014


To avoid controversy, I left out that just because students believe they are in the majority does not make it grammatically correct. Even though a large number of students feel more comfortable using there in some circumstances does not mean it is grammatically incorrect to use they. It just means some students feel more comfortable using there.

If they is grammatically correct in English, is used by many people, is easily understood and also happens to be a direct translation of ils/elles then it is not true to say it is incorrect or is unnatural. Undoubtedly, it is unnatural to some but that often that is just a matter of their experience of the language.

I will leave it as:

How many in the group? They could be three or four.

From Dictionary.com

Shakespeare, Swift, Shelley, Scott, and Dickens, as well as many other English and American writers, have used they and its forms to refer to singular antecedents. Already widespread in the language (though still rejected as ungrammatical by some), this use of they, their, and them is increasing in all but the most conservatively edited American English.

October 16, 2014


Well, then, it all depends on the context, doesn't it? The big problem with Duo is that it presents sentences like these without any context of where and when they might be used.

Hopefully we can agree that "how many of them are there?" is more commonly used on a day-to-day basis by native speakers of modern English than the construction "how many are they?" This is the case, for example, when asking about the number of people in a group. As an example from my job, I work as an English teacher in a language school which employs native speakers from Ireland, Scotland, England, Canada and the United States. "How many of them are there?" is a question that is asked very frequently in my place of work, as group classes often have a change of teachers at break times. It is invariably this construction that is used by all the teachers of the aforementioned nationalities during the handover process when asking about the number of students in a group. I cannot recall a single instance in which one of my colleagues has opted for "how many are they?" as their construction of choice.

You are quite right that "How many are they?" is a construction that is, grammatically speaking, correct, and that once was the most common and idiomatic way to ask this question. The key word here is was. The usages of this construction that have been cited in these threads - Shakespeare, Shelley, Dickens, academic papers, films about medieval warfare, the King James Bible - are examples of archaic and/or arcane English (I can't remember Dickens publishing a novel within my lifetime, and I think we all know that a lot of academics don't speak English as most of us know it!) "How many are they?" may have been the most widely used form of this construction in Shakespeare's time, but that doesn't mean that it's the most appropriate translation to teach to a student of modern English. And Duo itself is primarily focused on teaching modern, communicative English as it is spoken in 2014.

Would you teach a student of English that "Excuse me sir, have you a cigarette?" is an appropriate way to ask a stranger for a smoke? Most likely not. It might, however, have been the acceptable construction in Shakespeare's time (never mind the question of whether it would have been a commonly asked question on the streets of Elizabethan England). In 2014, your student would probably get a giggle and might get bonus points for charm, but as a teacher you'd still be under the obligation to point out to them that it's not a common way to ask that question in 2014 and that it would be seen by most native speakers as somewhat old-fashioned.

I think this renders the case for pushing the closest "direct translation" to the "black letter French" null and void. If a French native speaker studying English asked you if "I am OK" was an appropriate way to say "Je suis d'accord", would you tell them that it was? From a pedagogical point of view, that would be pretty poor form, because although that is a word-for-word translation of the phrase, it does not come close to approximating the meaning of the French phrase. You would have to teach them the most commonly used equivalent of "Je suis d'accord", which is "I agree". "Combien sont-ils?" is the most common way in modern French of asking for the number of a group of people, and the most common construction used by native speakers of present-day English to ask the same thing is "How many of them are there?", so you'd have to teach them that although "How many are they?" could be one way of rendering it, "How many of them are there?" would be a safer bet if they wanted to pass for a native speaker.

On the subject of idioms, would you teach someone to introduce their "petit ami" as their "little friend", assuming they don't want to sound like Scarface? And would you honestly teach a French person that the "Rooohhhh, ça me fait chier" translates to "Grrrrrr, that makes me ❤❤❤❤"? I'll leave it on that one.

October 17, 2014


'There could be three or four' does not seem to work. It needs 'of them' or the phrase to start with 'They'. DUO: please fix. Thank you

December 19, 2016


Doesn't "There could be three or four of them" translate to "Il pourrait y en avoir trois ou quatre"?

March 21, 2017


why is "they should be three or four," with the meaning that someone asks how many will be there, and the answer would be they should be three or four.

May 16, 2017


I think this is already asked but wouldn't it be "il y en pourraient être trois ou quatre" or "ils pourraient être trois ou quatre d'eux"?

July 25, 2017


Has anyone else been seeing words disappear after they choose the words from the word selection groupage?

February 21, 2019
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