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I have 10 beans. Jim has four times more.

Is this a valid sentence? And, if so, does it mean Jim has 40 or 50 beans?

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7  
closely related to 'X times as many as' vs 'X times more than'. –  JoseK Jun 16 '11 at 12:18
    
@JoseK: This is questionably a duplicate...first it is asking if the construction is valid English (is it grammatical?) and then what exactly does it mean (and only this latter bit is duplicate). –  Mitch Jun 16 '11 at 13:11
    
@Mitch The title implies that the second, duplicate question is the OP's primary interest. I vote to close. If the OP wants to know whether it's grammatical, that's a separate question. –  KitFox Jun 16 '11 at 13:15
    
@Kit. Ok, I'll alter the title. (I didn't want it to be too long.) –  Urbycoz Jun 16 '11 at 14:01

8 Answers 8

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I would recommend against using four times more in this context, although it would generally be understood to mean 40. What I would say is four times as many.

Googling four times more and four times as many, it seems that four times more is generally used with uncountable nouns, and four times as many with countable nouns.

four times more cancer-causing tar.
four times more carbon emissions.

versus

four times as many journalists
four times as many males.
four times as many films.

I won't do more than mention the confusing construction four times as many more, which I would recommend against using, as I think it's ambiguous.

UPDATE:

The grammatical rule is: use X times as many with countable nouns, and X times as much with uncountable nouns. The construction X times more is grammatical with both, but as many and as much are clearer in this context. Modifying adjectives, however, you should use four times more (or four times as):

four times more likely.
four times more prevalent.
four times more dangerous.
four times more effective.

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You're right. It's certainly not the clearest way to say it. But I'd really like to know if it is grammatically correct? –  Urbycoz Jun 16 '11 at 12:53
3  
Yes, it's totally grammatical. Ambiguous, but grammatical. –  Mitch Jun 16 '11 at 13:09
    
Here's a rather unusual "He has thrice more crimes to answer for than I have" from 1742. It pops up again 1971, where Armenia...has thrice more students [per head of population] than [western European countries]. But I'd still say as many, not more. –  FumbleFingers Jan 27 '12 at 22:01
    
Seconded. All those "times more" examples are better as "times as" ... "four times as effective"; "four times as dangerous"; etc. Better because not so ambiguous. –  GEdgar Apr 27 '12 at 14:50

I think the sentence makes sense to the question how many beans do you have and how many does Jim have.

You have 10 and Jim has four times more.

From a "scientific" perspective, the more than/ as many part of the expression indicates "direction"— think vector, rather than scalar. "More" indicates who has the greater quantity. The "four times" indicates the degree of the comparison — you have four times fewer than Jim. The more/as many and few/less than are analagous to "multiplied by" or "divided by" in mathematics.

Then, as the comments above point out, the correct form to use depends on whether the noun is countable or not.

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You don't include the first unit in the resulting calculation, since we're multiplying:

4 * 10

This says we want 4 of the value 10, not 4 10's plus 10.

The usage of 'more' here expands to '4 times more than you have', which is where we get our base value from for the multiplication (10).

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1  
Saying "4 times more than you have" is still unclear. Does it mean 40 or 50? –  Urbycoz Jun 16 '11 at 12:51
    
I see how it could come across as unclear, but the reason it should not be unclear (in my explanation) is because we're not adding the initial number, we're taking it as a base, the 'x times' is what is important. –  Grant Thomas Jun 16 '11 at 12:52
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But 'more than' normally means addition, if A has $10 and B has $20 'more' then B would have $30 –  mgb Jun 16 '11 at 12:54
    
@Martin Beckett: Yes, in such a construct, but we don't have that sentence - 'x times more...' The more here is used for inference, instead of just saying 'Jim has four times', four times what? It could be made clearer with 'Jim has four times that', but it isn't, and we only have enough information to derive the multiplication, no additions. From a comprehension point of view, people won't have a two-part equation here (as in (4*10)+(10).) –  Grant Thomas Jun 16 '11 at 12:59
    
It is ambiguous though - "four times as much as" would be safer –  mgb Jun 16 '11 at 14:35

Using times with a comparative (more, faster, better, etc.) doesn't make mathematical sense. You can't identify the second value in the equation: 4 × (more than you have). How much or many is more than you have? This is unknown for both countable and mass nouns.

What is meant is four times as many (or as much) as you have. You can also say four times what you have. If you always multiply by the known value, you'll be clear and precise. Instead of times more, faster, or better, say times as much, many, fast, or good. Bill Walsh (in Lapsing Into a Comma) and Bryan Garner (in Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd edition) explain this point well.

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Usually people would understand it to mean that Jim has four times as many as you have, and not four times additional to what you have.

I would say that Jim had 40

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So you're saying it's entirely subjective? –  Urbycoz Jun 16 '11 at 12:53

I was taught that "X times more" is (X+1) times as many, it should be the "more correct" one but like many other terms that are frequently misused to the extent that they become the norm, it is not a surprise if it meant otherwise to some people.

Just try avoid using such words if you are the one writing it.

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To scientists and mathematicians, 4 times more has a precise meaning. 4 times the base (10) is 40 so four times more than 10 is 50.

One could say that 40 is four times ten, but 50 is four times more than 10.

Consider, what is 50% more than 10? 50% is another word for half. I would say that 50% more than 10 is 15 because you multiply 10 by a half and add that to 100. If you take the approach that you just multiply, then you would say that 5 is 50% more than 10?!

What if you made $10 per hour and I told you I made 1 times more than that per hour.

This is very similar to Percent - look that up on wikipedia and it has examples that show how something that is 100% more than something else is twice as large

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1  
I disagree with your interpretation. Someone saying 1 times more is so unlikely that it just isn't a valid comparison with 100% more. If John has 10 bean and I have 4 times more, I have 40 beans. Comparing % more to times more is invalid because they don't mean the same thing in normal English usage. –  Matt Эллен Mar 29 '12 at 8:05

Most people would incorrectly say that "two times more" is the same as "two times as much" and "200% more". But they would correctly say that "100% more" is the same as "twice as much" and "200% as much".

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1  
Things mean what people think they mean, not what you wish they meant. –  tchrist Feb 15 '13 at 20:32

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