"How many months are there in one year?"
Translation:एक साल में कितने महीने होते हैं?
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If there's no verb, just 'something something है', then the second something is an adjective.
Here it's not an adjective, so there's no choice but to say (in awkwardly somewhat directly translated English) 'how many months be in one year'.
i.e. a verb is needed, and we don't want e.g. खाते हैं, how many months eat in a year, we want how many are there: होते हैं।
It's the verb 'to be', होना i.e. the 'are' from the English sentence - there be twelve months in a year.
If you don't use it, it's like trying to apply 'how many months in' as an adjective, which of course it isn't.
When you are describing something wirh an adjective though, it can usually also be phrased with होता है / होती है / होते हैं / होती हैं।
It's simply the same as खाता है ('eats') is for the verb खाना, but for होना। It just causes a bit of confusion because we don't use 'to be' in the same way in standard English.