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English uses how much/many to ask for an amount or a quantity. Has there been an interrogative word in Old, Middle, or Modern English to convey the meaning of how much/many (i.e., an equivalent to the Spanish cuánto or the French combien)?

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I don't get it, 'how much' doesn't work? Or do you mean a -single- word? Does it have to be an etymologically 'wh-' word too? –  Mitch Dec 13 '11 at 15:44
    
This question is derived from one that I asked in Spanish Language and Usage. I'm just curious about the lack or a single-word quantity interrogative in English. I know that how much and how many presently serve the same purpose as the Spanish cuánto. –  Jaime Soto Dec 13 '11 at 15:52
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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'm no expert, but I think the Old English word hwæt had a broad range of meaning and applicability, which did actually include how much.

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As George Walkden reminds us, ‘hwæt’ is best known for being the first word of ‘Beowulf’, where it is normally understood to be used simply to attract listeners’ attention: ‘lo!’ ‘behold!’. The suggestion that it means ‘How much (we have heard of the might of the nation-kings of the Spear-Danes)’ is ingenious, but even if it can bear that interpretation, it’s a big leap to claim it as an Old English interrogative, similar to modern Spanish ‘cuánto?’ or modern French ‘combien?’ –  Barrie England Nov 25 '11 at 9:11
    
I didn't read the whole of Walkden's paper that I linked to (it's a bit too technical for me), but he does actually give "how much" as one potential paraphrasing. I seem to recall that all English "wh- words" derive from a single generic "interrogative", so mostly likely it's as @Mahnax says - either there isn't an equivalent to combien, or it's hwæt. –  FumbleFingers Nov 25 '11 at 14:26
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I know that you want English; but other than FumbleFingers' answer, I don't think there is one. Latin uses quantus for how much.

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