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, Germany
Joined: 13. Apr 2007
Posts: 1810

John and Jane and some apples

#1 - 17. May 2017 21:47

Karlstad, Sweden
Joined: 7. Oct 2006
Posts: 2654
#2 - 18. May 2017 12:53
x represents John's one apple, right? And [in mathematics] you multiply x with the value infront of it so the answer is 2*1 = 2 apples.

However if you read it "outside of mathematics" (dunno what to call it) then there will be 3 apples because Jane has 2 more apples than John. Because "<value>x" is a lazy language thing(?) (again, dunno what to to call it in English). Although that can both be interpreted as multiplying AND addition.

It's a paradox.

And I have to login to vote wtf?! I think I had Twitter once but deleted it. :-D

, Finland
Joined: 2. Jun 2016
Posts: 38
#3 - 18. May 2017 15:39
Ahaha, you made a poll because Suky used a wrong term ? :P

, Germany
Joined: 13. Apr 2007
Posts: 1810
#4 - 18. May 2017 17:50
I am _not_ trolling @1suky1 and not saying he is wrong - he just made me aware that there can be vastly different interpretations on this.
Airwalk Media

LOLville, Romania
Joined: 2. Oct 2007
Posts: 2762
#5 - 18. May 2017 17:56

Sofia, Bulgaria
Joined: 9. Nov 2008
Posts: 353
#6 - 19. May 2017 09:28
By saying '2x more apples' I understand it as:

John has 1
Jane has equal to john + 2x more than John which would be 1 + 2x1 = 3

I have a better riddle though:
Jane has 48 cakes. Jane ate 46 cakes. How do we decide who is going to tell Jane to stop wearing yoga pants?

Last changed: 19. May 2017 09:31

, Germany
Joined: 13. Apr 2007
Posts: 1810
#7 - 19. May 2017 13:42
In English "more" can have mutliple meanings and additionally multiple meanings in terms of which set it refers to (the total set ("another") or Jane's set (in comparison to John's)), which is where the problem derives from, since the most likely meaning doesn't have to be the same as in your local non-English language:


"John has 1 apple.
Jane has 2 more apples."

In this case an native English speaker probalby understands "Jane has 2 apples.", because they will understand the meaning of "more" as in "further / another".


"John has 1 apple.
Jane has 2x more apples."

In this case an native English speaker probably understands "Jane has 2 * 1 = 2 apples." , same reasoning as in 1).

3) (Poll version)

"John has 1 apple.
Jane has 2x more apples than John."

In this case in my opinion a native English speaker should understand "Jane has 3 apples.", because the "than" and the place where it is used in the sentence should make clear, that we are talking about Jane's set in comparison to John's. However if you voted on Twitter already, you will see 65% of 55 people that voted so far understood "Jane has 2 apples.". But then again most people that voted are probably not native English speakers.

Further reading:

4) This is what made me post the poll:
"This is why people pirate shit. Why am I not able to buy directly from @Adobe but have to buy from Croatian resellers who charge 2x more???"
In the image he posted Adjobe charged about 250 USD and his resellers charged about 500 USD.

This one is really tricky, due to the fact, that the charging is independently and not "another" charging, meaning in my opinion he should have used 1x instead of 2x. But even a native English speaker doesn't think that far usually.


When talking either talk mathematic formulae, or instead use the term "as much as", which is less ambigious, even accross translations:

"John has 1 apple.
Jane has 3x as much apples as John."

In this case hopefully most people agree that Jane has 3 apples.

PS: Maybe some native English speaker (*cough* Anthony *cough*) can comment on this in a non-trolling way, please?


"John has 1 apple.
Jane has 2 apples more."

This should be clear ("Jane has 3 apples") due to the way the sentence is built, but I don't want to run another poll on that, just to see people still get it "wrong" in my opinion.

Last changed: 19. May 2017 14:00

Karlstad, Sweden
Joined: 7. Oct 2006
Posts: 2654
#8 - 19. May 2017 14:32
ripieces wrote:
"This is why people pirate shit. Why am I not able to buy directly from @Adobe but have to buy from Croatian resellers who charge 2x more???"

I read that sentence as "2 times more" = multiplying by 2.

I blame the Twitter character limit.

, Poland
Joined: 30. Apr 2014
Posts: 47
#9 - 9. Jun 2017 00:49
I like apples too.

bs as, Argentina
Joined: 4. Jan 2012
Posts: 289
#10 - 10. Jun 2017 18:36
how you like them apples

Stavanger, Norway
Joined: 8. Oct 2006
Posts: 1780
#11 - 18. Jun 2017 21:45
Very interesting poll, Dom! I didn't see it until now.

Personally, I would still have said that Jane has 2 apples. Granted, I am not a native English speaker, but lived in England for years and speak more English every day than I do Norwegian, due to my English-speaking fiancé and my work being in English.

That being said, the "than" doesn't really impact me. The real game-turner is the word "more". The x has some impact too, as is illustrated by your second example, where you say "Jane has 2 apples more" - this version correctly implies 3 apples without the word "than".

Like you said, I would interpret the following:
"Jane has 2 more than John"
"Jane as 3 apples"

By comparisons I would interpret:
"Jane as 2x more than John"
as literally:
"Jane has two times more than John"

If Jane has 3 apples, then she does not have two times more, she has twice as many+1. The alternative approach is to interpret it as "Jane's amount of apples is equal to John's amount, plus twice as many more". This would then be 3, as you say.

This confusion only works, in my opinion, because the problem is phrased in a way we are not used to.
Normally, if Jane has 2 apples we would just say:
"Jane has twice as many apples"
"Jane has two times as many apples"
or even "Jane has an additional apple"

If she has 3 apples, then:
"Jane has thrice as many apples"
"Jane has three times as many apples"
"Jane has two more apples than John"

The problem is heavily confounded by the word "more", but it is best seen as just an indicator of direction, and is superfluous. If you remove it and say "Jane has 2x apples than John", it becomes grammatically incorrect, but clearly implies that Jane has 2 apples, not three. You could change it to "Jane has x2 as many apples as John", which also suggests that Jane has 2 apples, not 3. Again, this is because the word "more" is missing.
Imagine the reverse, also: "Jane has 0.5x apples less than John". By this sentence, you would not assume that Jane has 1.5 apples, but rather half an apple. If you changed it to "Jane has 0.5x apples more than John", the sentence now implies that Jane's amount of apples is 50% higher than John's amount.

The x is also a problematic element, but is less impactful. Say the problem instead was:
"John has 5 apples"
"Jane has 2x apples more than John"

This version removes the issue of thinking the number 1 being in the multiplier. Are we really interpreting this sentence as Jane having 7 apples? Or 15? To me it makes more sense to say she has 10. You could, of course, argue that if Jane has 10 apples it should actually say:
"Jane has x2 apples more than John"
And that because of the placement of the x, "2x" really means that the x is not a multiplier against John, but rather an indication of 2 additional apples to the value of x (which may be John's amount). But if that was the case, why even use the x? Just say "Jane has 2 apples more". The addition of the x after the number doesn't make any sense, unless interpreted in the context of 2 x John's apples. If changed to "Jane has x2 apples more" then it clearly becomes a multiplier, but is still confounded by the word "more".

*head explodes*

, Germany
Joined: 13. Apr 2007
Posts: 1810
#12 - 19. Jun 2017 07:54
Thanks for putting so much time in your answer :]
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