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I have seen a lot of people using multiple different when only different or multiple would have conveyed the meaning just as well. Is this correct usage? I know that sometimes doubling the words is used for more emphasis but I am seeing this used a lot more frequently than I thought.

We have multiple different sizes to choose from.
We have different sizes to choose from.
We have multiple sizes to choose from.

If this is correct, is this something I just miss in school or is this a newer addition to the language? (My first language is not English, as you can probably tell from my post.)

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Note that using different without a modifier can convey a slightly different (hehe) meaning. It can be used to emphasize that there exist things other than the ones now in view or available. Using many or multiple doesn't carry that connotation, and may simply refer to what things are currently in evidence. –  Robusto Jul 24 '11 at 14:27

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

It's perfectly correct. While, based on Ngrams, multiple different is a construction which has seen a fairly recent increase in use, starting in roughly 1980, many different means essentially the same thing and has been around for many years. The word multiple itself has undergone a recent increase in use, as well, so my guess is that this naturally led to the occasional use of multiple different instead of many different.

Why do people use many different instead of just saying many? My guess is to emphasize the fact that these many contain a lot of variety. If a store said We have many dresses, it would still be correct even if they were all the same design, and if they just said We have different dresses, they might just have two.

I agree that multiple different sizes is redundant, and could be simplified to multiple sizes. But redundancy is very common in everyday language use, and not all uses of multiple different or many different are redundant.

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Thank You for that answer. –  DevByDefault Jul 24 '11 at 16:33

Saying multiple as in "multiple different sizes" is redundant, but it is not wrong.

Basing on the data reported from the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I can say that "multiple different" is not so frequently used, and it is less used than "many different." (The scale is logarithmic because the difference between the number of sentences containing one phrase and the other.)

screenshot

I then looked for sentences where “multiple different" and "many different" are followed by a noun, and I have obtained the following results.

screenshot

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+1 for the research. –  DevByDefault Jul 24 '11 at 16:34

I think you are largely right, though I don't think it is just a doubling for emphasis. If you will allow me some poetic license to bring out the differences I will attempt to do so.

We have different sizes to chose from.

This might be fulfilled if you just have a few other sizes. Here the emphasis is "I know the size you tried didn't fit, but don't worry, we have other sizes you can try."

We have multiple sizes to choose from.

Here you have several sizes that might include the size you just tried on. Here the emphasis is "look at our huge shoe store, and all the sizes you can try!"

We have multiple different sizes to choose from.

Here the emphasis is, I know the size you tried didn't fit, but you think we can't accommodate you? No! We have lots of other sizes for you to choose from.

(BTW, I would never have known your native language was not English had you not said so. Your question was excellent.)

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'Multiple' is rarely interchangeable with 'several' because they do not mean exactly the same thing.
‘Multiple’ stems from the mathematical definition of a number that is produced by multiplying smaller numbers together; 2, 3, 4 and 6 are multiples of 12. So, ‘multiple’ should be used to convey the idea of a thing that is divided into many parts. For example, ‘He had multiple personalities’, that is one person with a personality that is composed of many parts; or many facets that combine to create the one person’s personality. ‘Several’ relates to distinct and separate entities. ‘Several personalities’ would mean many different people, each with their own personality. 'Multiple different dresses' would be an oxymoron and syntactically incorrect because each dress is a different entity and distinct from the other dresses. 'Many/several different dresses' would be correct and does sound more natural. ('Many' suggesting a generally larger number; 'several' suggesting an easily countable number that is greater than 'a few'. Indeed, 'different' says that the dresses are not exact copies of each other).

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This is incorrect: 2, 3, 4, and 6 are not “multiples” of 12, but rather its factors. Numbers like 12, 24, 36, 60, 120, and 360 are all multiples of 12. –  tchrist Jul 29 at 16:24

If you can use one word in the place of two, then you should use one word.

Although there is nothing grammatically incorrect with saying “there are various other multiple different many ways of learning a trade”, you sound insane. In every example cited so far, we do not need one of the words in order to fully understand your meaning.

Using only many implies variation, otherness, and difference.

Granted, there are times when you would use one of these words over the other (various different) ones. However, you will never need more than one.

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protected by tchrist Jul 29 at 16:26

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