0

B is 4, A is 10 times more, is A 44? I am really confused by "times" and "more" or "better".

9
  • Do you have a source you can cite, or give some context? Is this a riddle in the form of a poem, for instance, where 'more' would have just been put in for a rhyme? Feb 15, 2014 at 5:29
  • For example, product A is 10 times better than product B. Country A is developing 10 times faster than country B.
    – Steven
    Feb 15, 2014 at 5:34
  • 2
    I think the fact that times means multiplication, not multiplication and addition is General Reference. Feb 15, 2014 at 13:08
  • 1
    Maths was never my forte but even I know that "10 times 4" is 40. Why is this an English language question?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 15, 2014 at 20:33
  • 1
    1 - 'X times more than' is the same as 'X times'. It is a mistake to think it is 'X+1 times'. 2 - it is a common mistake though, an eggcorn out of confusing comparison with '200% more' which does mean 3 times as much.
    – Mitch
    Feb 18, 2014 at 1:36

4 Answers 4

5

Times means "times". Multiplication. Times does not mean "multiplication and then addition".

The more, better and so on are red herrings. They do not mean addition, either. Their role is to specify which way the multiplication goes. To see that, remind yourself that:

  1. Their opposites, less and worse and so on, do not specify subtraction. "B is four, A is ten times less" does not mean you have to subtract four, or multiply with minus four, or anything like that.
  2. You cannot drop these words and just say "A is four. B is ten times." Ten times what? More? Less? Precisely. You have to specify the direction. And when you specify the direction, all you do is specify the direction.

So, in short:

  • B is 4, A is 10 times more/better/faster

    → A = 10 × B
    A is 40, not 44.
    B is 10 times less/worse/slower.

  • B is 4, A is 10 times less/worse/slower

    → B = 10 × A
    A is 0.4, not 36, not −36, not −3.6.
    B is 10 times more/better/faster.

5
  • ‘More (than)’ is optional, though, which I guess is what caused the confusion. If A is 4 and B is 10 times A, obviously B is 40. But you could logically (though never in practice) argue that if B is ten times more than A, it ought to be A and then ten times A, i.e., 44. Feb 15, 2014 at 9:48
  • better and faster are indeed red herrings. Normally I would actually put "faster"with less and slower with more. If A takes 4 seconds, and B is ten times faster, B does not take 40 seconds! For better it all depends on what is better: less or more?
    – oerkelens
    Feb 15, 2014 at 12:23
  • 1
    I couldn't disagree more. If A is 40, then A is 10 times as much as B, but only 9 times more than A. That said, as much as and more than are often treated as synonyms in informal use, and for that reason both constructions should probably be avoided if precision is required.
    – phenry
    Feb 17, 2014 at 18:30
  • 1
    @phenry: Here are all 116 COCA cites for "ten times more". Including formal and academic writing. You will be hard pressed to find a single one among them that means "eleven times as much". In other news, since we use the decimal system, by your reasoning we should be seeing "nine times more", "ninety-nine times more", and "999 times more" much more often than "ten times more", "a hundred times more", "1000 times more". But the opposite is true. So your reasoning is wishful thinking.
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 17, 2014 at 23:49
  • 1
    @RegDwigнt - and those COCA cites overwhelmingly use "ten times more" in a figurative sense... which illustrates the danger of using this expression when discussing more precise matters.
    – phenry
    Feb 18, 2014 at 0:19
3

"Times" would usually refer to multiplication. "More" would usually refer to addition. (In my experience "Better" isn't commonly to indicate quantity. (If you gave an example I could clarify the meaning however.)

Examples: "That cost ten times more than before! It was just five dollars last week." (10 x 5 = 50) "Sorry, that will be 3 dollars more, you only gave me 2 dollars." (3 + 2 = 5)

Let me know if I didn't interpret your question correctly.

3

I would agree that A is indeed 44, for consistency with the statements like "B is 4, A is 25% more", which can only reasonably imply that "A is 5". In this latter example, the "more" certainly implies addition.

Thus I would say that these two statements are correct: "B is 4, A is 10 times B, thus A is 40"; "B is 4, A is 10 times more than B, thus A is 44".

7
  • 1
    Yes, but this is English, not math, and "percent" works differently than "times" in English. If you say A is 10, B is 50% more, than B is clearly 15. However, if you say A is 10, B is half times more, people will not understand you. In other words, nobody actually says "is half times more". Here is proof. Feb 15, 2014 at 19:30
  • The replacement "50%" -> "(a) half" yields "B is (a) half more", which is correct English. (You added "times".) And then my point still holds: "A is 10, B is a half more" implies "B is 15". The point is that "more" implies addition.
    – Senex
    Feb 15, 2014 at 19:54
  • 1
    But people do write "0.25 times more" (see google.com/search?q=%220.25+times+more%22), meaning addition. I agree this "times-er" construction is widely misused in colloquial English, but used correctly "X times more" = "X+1 times".
    – Senex
    Feb 15, 2014 at 21:23
  • 1
    Under the assumption that they all mean the same thing, then yes, only 10% are correct. I submit that argumentum ad populum is not a guide to correctness: search Google for "men's trousers" and "mens trousers". Twice as many hits for the latter.
    – Senex
    Feb 17, 2014 at 0:31
  • 1
    Also, even if we accept that, colloquially, "ten times more" means "ten times", when decimals are used, we may reasonably assume that a precise statement is being made, perhaps with reference to statistics, measurements etc. In such a context, I think correctness requires that "1.25 times more" be greater than "0.25 times more". Also, if "1.25 times more" means the same as "1.25 times", does "0.25 times more" mean the same as "0.25 times"?
    – Senex
    Feb 17, 2014 at 1:00
0

Given your clarification comment, A is 40. If country A is developing 10 times faster than country B, and if B is developing at a rate of 4 "development units" per year (whatever they are), then B is developing at 40 unit per year.

An alternative phrase would be ten times greater.

2
  • So, we think that "A is ten times B" means the same as "A is ten times more than B"...?
    – GEdgar
    Feb 15, 2014 at 18:35
  • Yes, we do, all of us. But their contexts of use differ. The longer one strikes us as more natural in a context where both are defined relative to a third number: If B = 2C and A = 20C, then A is ten times more than B. (This isn’t to rule out “A is ten times B” here. Rather, it is to illustrate a context where the longer version doesn’t sound somewhat natural.) Feb 16, 2014 at 1:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.