"Combien sommes-nous ?"
Translation:How many of us are we?
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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.)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?