1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: French
  4. >
  5. "Combien sommes-nous ?"

"Combien sommes-nous ?"

Translation:How many of us are we?

December 16, 2012

36 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El-Guapo

It is very common to ask, "how many are we?" Not a "french" thing.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mickeleh

I agree that it's idiomatic English and not a French thing. I've said (and heard) "how many are we?" many times. The context is usually buying tickets, making restaurant reservations, arranging for transportation, etc. (Raised in New York City, lived in Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle.)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/steveo1136

how many of us are we? that doesn't make sense


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/soundenvision

I think it's referring to a party of people. Perhaps when being seated at a restaurant; "How many of us are there? Let's see... one, two, three, four, five. Table for five please."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dimensional_dan

Then it should be "how many of us are there" not "how many of us are we".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/northernguy

Some people posting on this thread say that they have never heard, or used, this phrase in English. This is quite understandable.

Others say that have both heard and used it. That also is quite understandable

There is a third group, that having read that some people do use it, say that can't be true because they themselves don't and therefore no one would ever use such a phrase, no matter what anyone writes on this board.

To that third group I say this: Please get over yourselves. Google has seventy three million hits for the phrase how many of us are we.

Somebody is using it even if you don't.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El-Guapo

Hey northernguy, Thank you for your sensible post. I am so sick of listening to people who have no idea what they are talking about. In fact, the phrase isn't just widely used, it is grammatically correct. I have followed this thread with much disappointment in peoples' assuredness that they have all of the answers. Strange for people studying languages to be so inflexible about their own. Anyway, thanks for landing squarely on the side of reason.

Rich


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Julie294148

Google is not a valid souce for fact. Sourcing from Google is worse than using Wikipedia and Snopes as references.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Lostduckie

Canadian and would agree with "How many are we?". It's definitely an old school throwback and has dropped out of regular usage but it's still out there.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/aaronheiss

I'm pretty sure I've asked "How many are we?" myself on both East and West coasts of both the US and Canada, without any odd reactions. I agree though, it does sound a little "old", and "How many of us are there?" is definitely more common. That said, even if it does sound stilted to some, "How many are we?" is both grammatically correct and understandable, as well as being a more literal translation.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gnedge

likewise; very common question.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/xiongnu1987

How many of us are there? should be right!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/oneinam

How many of us are there? Used a lot, its right


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/northernguy

Actually, I just translated it directly. Combien/ how many and then sommes-nous/ are we.

How many are we is a phrase I have read and heard so I wasn't bothered by whether it made sense or not.

Pretty straightforward really!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/derpione

I think Nous sommes combien? would be a little more fitting.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lelawatie

Couldn't understand what was being asked.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/david50S

People were arguing whether "how many are we?" is correct English, but I'm doing the exercise now, and Duolingo's correct translation is "How many of us are we?", which sounds absolutely crazy. This should be either "How many of us are there?" or "How many are we?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/percyflage

DL translation actually reads "How many of us are we?" which is NOT acceptable English anywhere, as far as I know! Arguing about the other variations is fine. DL remains wrong about this phrase.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/2m42m

They seem to suggest a translation of "how much are we"; now this is bad unless we are taking human trafficking.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/joyxfeng

the way she says it sounds like combien c'ennuie which doesn't make any sense.....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/amordee

Would "How many of us?" be academically correct? Like going to a restaurant and of course asking in a group, "How many of us?" Rather than "How many of us are we" I understand, it's a part of the French culture, but couldn't they accept it, speaking of we're learning the language?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Kevin968039

That sentence may be French friendly, but not so nice for English- isn't there a way to meet somewhere in between re this translation?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SoBroithe

"How many of us are we?" is a clumsy translation. In my opinion it should be "How many of us are there?" or "How many are we?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zineeta

Shouldn't that be how many of us are there?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/YaziThePolarBear

I wrote 'how much is ours'. Can someone explain?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Meowmeowmeow145

That dosen't make any sense.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gunce1

How many of us are we going to understand it?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mushtika

In the google translate i got the " how are we?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DilM0OQy

how about On sommes combien


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Boulangist

"How much are we?" - completely meaningless


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MarieB521235

" How many of us" should suffice but as we are learning pronouns, " sommes-nous" is the focus . So, How many are we? is the correct way to translate but How many of us are we, seems overkill though! imo


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/metastaseis

This and similar phrases have generated much debate. My feeling is that a good idiomatic translation would be "How many of us are there?" Certainly, the current suggested translation ("How many of us are we?") is totally wrong and absurd. And judging by the comments, that's been the suggested translation for 5 years or so--not good! Is anyone planning to change that or...?

I was reminded of this phrase when I saw the following picture: https://media.nouvelobs.com/referentiel/633x306/16709363.jpg (if the link doesn't work, it's a Facebook page where the header image says "COMBIEN SOMMES-NOUS DE GILETS JAUNES"--without a question mark!). Again, a perfectly idiomatic translation of this phrase would be "How many of us are Yellow Vests?", or indeed "How many Yellow Vests are there?". Whether that is accurate or not though I can't really say.

"How many are we", though technically correct, may not be the most idiomatically accurate translation, since it sounds highly formal to my ears, whereas the French expression evidently is not. Moreover, "How many are we" is (evidently?) less common in English than the French phrase is in French. And that's something that we probably should be thinking about when translating, n'est-ce pas?

Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.