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mesmark Sep 25th, 2007 08:51 pm

How many people do you have in your family?
 
'How many people do you have in your family?'

Is this a general construction you would use?

The answer then being:

'I have four people in my family, my parents, my sister and me.'

It's strange to me. I'd say 'How many people are there in your family?' If I would actually ask a question like that at all :D

Since it is a common question in the local L1 they like to ask it in English. I was approached about it as a teacher was going to put it in a test and we started to discuss it. Turns out, this exact example is in the workbook that accompanies the textbook. So, I lean toward the side that this must be some other English, but it could be 'Japanese English.'

I said that we generally only use 'have' when we are in a position of power over the group.

I have 3 kids.
I have 15 people working for me. (I'm the boss)
My company has 120 employees. (It's my company.)
I have 32 students in my class. (I'm the teacher.)

but if I'm a student for example, I wouldn't say:
'I have 32 students in my class.'

susan53 Sep 26th, 2007 11:49 am

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
I agree that have sounds odd but I don't think the reason is power - or not quite in the way you suggest : I have a brother and a sister / I have a lot of relatives /I have several friends in Australia - no assumption of power there.

For me the problem lies with "in your family". If I say Do you have friends in the States? or Do you have a pen in your bag? it implies that you are outside Australia or the bag - not a component of it..

But with the family it's different. You are in the family too - you're part of it. And one component can't have something which is another equal component of the whole. This explains too why the student can't say I have 32 students in my class but the T can. The S is part of the class, whereas the T is not - s/he's outside the group.

clivehawkins Sep 27th, 2007 11:04 am

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Quote:

Quote mesmark (Post 11360)
It's strange to me. I'd say 'How many people are there in your family?' If I would actually ask a question like that at all :D

Yes, I'd ask it like that too. And I'd reply that there are 6 people in my family, or that there are six of us.

susan53 Sep 27th, 2007 11:19 am

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Wow! big family, Clive. Christmas must be fun ...

clivehawkins Sep 27th, 2007 12:57 pm

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Om my side there are in fact only four of us, including two parents and stop. However, on my Italian wife's side . . . . . . family dinners often exceed 30 people. The last family wedding we went to there were 500 of us. I kid you not!!!!

mesmark Sep 28th, 2007 06:17 pm

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Thanks for the responses.

I think I'll go back to them with the 'in my family' and not being a component of it.

What about:
One student said, "We have 32 students in our class."

susan53 Sep 29th, 2007 12:02 pm

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Depends who said it, by the same reasoning. If said by students "We" are part of the class so it doesn't work. Even if said by a S to a T and meaning "You and I" then "I" am still part of the whole. But if two teachers share the class then they could say it, no problem.

Eric18 Oct 4th, 2007 10:13 pm

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Excellent post that made me double-check my own usage. I use and hear both on a regular basis, but I also work with so many non-native speakers that one can begin to doubt your own language instinct. Mesmark certainly has an excellent point about the implied power dynamics in some situations (work, etc), but I'm not sure it's a universal principle here. Like many common expressions, a detailed logical analysis will reveal patterns that may not be intended by the speaker or perceived by the listener.

For what it is worth, you inspired me to check what I wrote in my new conversation textbook (Compelling Conversations) in a chapter titled "Describing Family Ties." Shock, shock.
"1. Do you have a large, medium, or small family? How many people are in your family?" The combination seems likely to provide both perspective and precision.

mesmark Oct 4th, 2007 10:32 pm

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Quote:

Quote Eric18 (Post 11509)
"1. Do you have a large, medium, or small family? How many people are in your family?" The combination seems likely to provide both perspective and precision.

Interesting. Are you assuming the listener is an adult? One that has a spouse and children?

I assume the adult population is the market you're looking for, and I only ask, because I teach mostly children-teens. I'd ask 'Do you come from a big family?'

DaveESL Oct 9th, 2007 07:14 am

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Folks here in China use that question (How many people do you have...) all the time, too.

Personally, though, I don't really say "How many people are there in your family?"

Instead, I'll usually ask about the "pieces" - Do you have any brothers or sisters? or Do you have any children?

Those seem more natural to me.

mesmark Oct 9th, 2007 05:49 pm

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
Quote:

Quote DaveESL (Post 11582)
Personally, though, I don't really say "How many people are there in your family?"

Instead, I'll usually ask about the "pieces" - Do you have any brothers or sisters? or Do you have any children?

I agree. It's not a question I ask either. It's probably a cultural thing and as an American, not really something I care about.

I think it might be because Japanese people tend to live with their parents and grandparents.

momofnicholas Oct 24th, 2007 10:11 pm

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
I would say:

How many people are in your family?

A student could say:

There are 32 students in my class or there are 32 students in our class.

Dominic Jul 7th, 2011 01:12 am

Re: How many people do you have in your family?
 
I think Mesmark has a good point.
Japanese people have, in the past at least, tended to have an extended family living in one house and therefore have a different concept of family.

When Japanese ask "How many people in your family?" They really mean "How many family members live in your house?" Otherwise the answer to that question could take ridiculous proportions, e.g. there are thousands of people in my family depending on how distant you want to go from the family center. And we all live in the human family. The whole world is my family.
In Australia, we don't ask "How many people in your family?" but "How many brothers and sisters do you have?" We assume you have a mother and father, and then ask what does your mother/father do? or ask for whatever specific information. We also assume you don't have a grandpa or grandma living with you, so it's not really part of the question.

Therefore, I think that Japanese and western people have entirely different communicative objectives, but trying to use one sentence structure to satisfy both.


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